Sunday, December 14, 2014

I used to be a Marine

I used to be a Marine.

In a way, that sums up this story and its ending. It doesn’t seem like much, but I think it is.

There are a lot of things that happened. A lot of significant things happened. When I first tried to write this story, I realized that I didn’t understand a lot of the things, because I knew only what I experienced of them. We experience life in medias res – in the middle of things. I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I tried to tell the story. So I thought and asked. Some of the people I wanted to ask, I couldn’t anymore. And that is part of the story. In the end, I can’t tell the whole story. No one can. But maybe that is the point.

We think our story is the whole story, but the earth doesn’t work that way. We are born in the middle of things and we die in the middle of things. We come into people’s lives in the middle of things. We don’t even understand our own stories, but we assume we understand others at a glance.

Lacking an understanding of our own stories, we create them of whole cloth. Most of us create them in first person future tense. A friend of mine called this our “mind movie.” We while our days away dreaming through our mind movies and judging others by this future fiction of ourselves. We hope and aim to be something and in being something, we hope to immortalize ourselves. As was said once by a wise teacher, these are all vanities.

Writers have always reminded us of the fickle, unknowable finiteness of our lives. We nod our heads, moved for a few moments, then go on as we have. It takes a sharp blow – more likely a series of them – to understand that only the earth remains forever. Tomorrow is a dream. Regret can only be avoided by what you do today, not by what you were or what you hope to be.

I used to be a Marine.

All of that is over now. In a way.