A Look Back

When I Was Young: A Pseudo-journal About The Sixties

At the old folks home, where I now live, the many stories I find myself telling my fellow inmates here have prompted me to put pen to paper. Hence this memoir. First off, you should be aware that a real journal also exists. I started it shortly after my son was born on April 3, 1986. It was intended for him, and remains his to decline possession of on my death. I would not be surprised if he decides to do just that. But that’s a different story

So, why this version of an existing journal? It is a little disingenuous to speak of it as a single journal. It was never daily, being more a periodic place to record events and thoughts as they occurred. That proved to be at intervals of about two days, declining as time progressed. That lasted for nearly forty years. Probably I write now because I am too lazy to edit the originals themselves. Many of the journals reflect the impressions given by the presence of drugs and alcohol. They would be hard to edit anyway. Maybe even harder to read.

Also, in this format, there is no compulsion to follow the compunctions of actual time constraints. Who is to say that an event’s actual time of occurrence has any relationship to the importance of that event? In particular, there is no correlation twixt the importance of the sand pebbles observation and its occurrence. I was on my honeymoon and I had just dropped acid for the first and only time. We were on a beach in northern California, unmonitored, and young. I really don’t know Terri’s history relative to acid, but it was my first encounter with it. One of the lasting impressions which stayed with me was how fragile realty really is. Acid changed reality at its very core. That realization is why I have never taken it again. Changing reality is not something to be done casually.  Perhaps I will do it again, I don’t know, but I have been okay with the decision so far.

Here is the observation: The beach we were on consisted of pebbles about the size of marbles. They made a rattling noise each time the surf tossed them about. As time grew on, the noise began to merge with the glitter as the sun sat. I could not distinguish between the visual and aural inputs. Also, as the sun sat, I became aware of the interaction between surf and the pebbles. As the surf moved forward with each onslaught of a wave, the wave was impeded by the recession of the wave before it, as the ascent of the wave up the beach was impeded by encountering water from the first wave. The end result–which was, by no means, an end result–was that the pebbles would resettle in a different position than they would otherwise. The position of the pebbles would determine how the next wave would assault the beach.

The shape of each pebble effected the spreading decent pattern below it by making a wake formed just below it on the beach. While the overall pattern of the receding wave affected the overall pattern of the next wave’s accent up the beach, clearly the pattern of the wave’s retreat would, itself, be entirely different if so much as a single stone were removed from the total array of stones. At one and the same time, the single pebble’s influence was infinite and inconsequential, for the absence of a single stone would also go totally unnoticed.

So it is with each of our lives.

We are like the pebbles. Both in terms of the simultaneous infinite and inconsequential impact and in terms of the importance of each retaining our own shape. Nothing on the outside can change the shape on the inside in a positive way. Any attempt to do so will bring chaos to the overall pattern. Each of us is obligated to hold his shape as true as he or she can. The eventual collapse of the cliff standing behind the beach will depend on it. Both its design and the timing will be determined by the shape of each of the pebbles. The overall pattern plays an equally important role, but the input of each of the pebble’s wakes can not be ignored.

Retaining our shapes is our only real control over the long-term process and it is our greatest responsibility. It is our only lasting impact on history. This is true of both the powerful and the weak. Once enough time has passed, there is no difference.

So always do your best to retain your true shape.

Knowing what that is, or how to retain it, is not so easy. My advice is to follow your gut.

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