The veil of history

Todd Van Beck's picture

I knew it would start happening and last week the reality of my prediction about life started to take shape.  I knew that in time, if I lived long enough, that my friends, my contemporaries would start to die away, and last week this started in my life in a glaring manner.

Two of my long time buddies died within days of each other.  One was Jack Hogan and the other was Bruce Overton.  It is not necessary to eulogize these two marvelous human beings in this writing, for everything that could be said about their stellar human qualities have already been put to ink and page and also spoken in public.  I have nothing to add save for the fact that the three of us, over time made our own history.

History is for me a way of life.  It is part of what makes me tick and I constantly process, filter and evaluate most every aspect of my life and the meaning of my life and my experiences through the eyes of history.  It has saved me many heartaches and headaches, but it is not 100% foolproof.

History is a tough and impersonal teacher most times.  History is what it is (of course depending on who is writing the history), for good or for bad.  Most interesting is that one’s own personal history is absolutely free.  Every human being on the face of the earth has a history and also possesses the freedom to close or open their own personal door to their own personal history anytime they wish.  That is a rare thing in life.  Most life issues are not this black and white when it comes to absolute total freedom.

Closing the door on one’s history has with it a great risk great danger, for as the great Harvard philosopher George Santayana said “A person who forgets their history is condemned to repeat it.”  

Because of Jack and Bruce’s deaths I have been opening the door of my history, reflecting, reviewing, exploring and coming to renewed conclusions of why I did this or that or why I did not do this or that. 

The passing of these two men caused me to stop and look hard and long at my history, and honestly there are a couple of things, well actually a ton of things I would have done differently.  

I have never been an optimist, far from it.  However this week when I examined my life, stimulated by the deaths of Jack and Bruce, I concluded that here and there, now and then, just once in a while I have done good things and contributed something to life and to my profession.  That gives me comfort, and yes, there are people that I would like to track down and simply say “I am sorry” so my history as all histories also possesses regrets and utter failures.

Over the veil of history our lives evolve and continue till the last breath is taken, eyes are closed and thinking ends as it did last week for my two buddies, and as it will in time for me.  History and death are companions on the inner way.  They go hand in hand. 

Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  How true those words ring in my ears given the recent loss events in my life.  So I examined my life again this week in depth and was required for psychological health and balance to assimilate the dual realities that I have done good, and that I have done harm, they also seem to do hand in hand.

I suspect that if I live long enough more of my buddies will die and that once again I will honestly be compelled to explore, reflect, discern and make renewed conclusions about the experience of the meaning in my one solitary life, and I am prepared to do that, and to take once again that inward journey.

One interesting conclusion that I have arrived at in thinking about my history with Jack and Bruce and all the other people in my life is that my awareness that my history will also end one day is a great motivator for me to press ahead, to try to do good, and if I make mistakes make them on the side of kindness and generosity, and in the end to feel a God given-energy to live life, not perfectly, but to live life, for to be sure my Calvary will arrive soon enough.   TVB