When I have a strange idea, I wonder how to put it. It's as if they come as dreams, presentiments. They come, and they have to be chewed upon, and then they need writing down. They are thoughts that come one day, then they need to be put away, then slept upon, and then reassessed by the light of inspiration.
There was a time, long ago, when I was approached outside my dorm one night, by a fellow a year behind us basically challenging me to fight. "We both know who would win," he said, and then he walked away. I felt I had initiated the whole thing that had led to such an incident with my own fool behavior, and so I did not feel right pursuing it. And yet I restrained myself, probably swallowed some pride, as he was an aggressive type who thought well of himself and probably talked a lot, all of it without really impressing me he was anything worthy or special. For a long time I may have regretted not rising to his challenge, and from time to time, I must admit, it comes up in my mind. How would I handle such a challenge, knowing that it would irritate my mind for years, whereas he would take more confidence from the meeting and go on with his life. There are few people I do not like, and I might say, he would be one of them, from time to time. And only because I am a writer, an American humorist, a fan of great people like Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, I do address it.
It's a common problem of ego. My deeper thoughts are that really, in the end, none of it matters. You can tell yourself in your mind, oh, because of this, that happened, and because of that, further things happened. But really, not much of it does matter. It's all a great story of fiction that our minds tell back to our minds.
But this is an extremely odd thing for the intelligence to accept. And because we mark now a strange thing that happened fifty years ago, a terrible event, one finds such things approachable. What is the meaning of life and of life events, of the things that change us, of the things we wish went differently.
Dallas, November 22nd. The stupid things of life. The idiots. The effect of them. How to grapple with the fact that that 'leader of the free world,' who pretty much averted a situation of total nuclear war, who was a classy and humorous guy, ended up dead in mid stride and no more of his excellent words about what was happening at present in the world as far as events and worldly powers.
How to grapple with the basic fact of life. How to accept tragedy? What is that science, that math, that study of the things we must find to be unhappy and deeply disappointing and tragic. How do we deal with it, how to digest it all.
What is it? Is it that there tends to be a lot blustering in our lives? Doesn't, in hindsight, the whole tale of drama seem a little overblown?
But then, try to be a Buddhist. Try to say that the Communist world was benign, therefore not a logical object of suspicion, not having committed great atrocities, atrocities that, if you're reasonably lucky, you almost know directly of through a grand old neighbor, that JFK saber rattling was drama, it doesn't hold water. Not at all.
And yet, the effect is in the reaction. The reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis is actually the basic message here, to be cool, to not get overheated into overreaction. That was the gift of JFK, the 35th President of the United States. To not get overwhelmed, or carried away with the superfluous, with the ego.
The proper reaction, it seems, is to be calm, and not get overwhelmed or beyond yourself.
That is the ultimate graciousness of the great leader himself, that of Lincoln, that of JFK, to be, even in the heat of things, circumspect, even when the voice tells you to press the button of things like war.
I suppose what's left are things like the words of the man himself. He sought to defuse the tension of the Cold War. We all breathe the same air, he said. We all have the same hopes for our children, we all are mortal, we all have the same dreams. Which is a pretty deep statement, when you think about it. He let us see that other people cloaked in some blanket understanding were people just like us. An insider who included the outsider.
He was, in my mind anyway, a kind man, who liked people, and he had that quality of wit. Those are the things I find myself most greatly appreciating, his basic thoughtfulness. And sure, a lot of that entered into the decision making process. But a lot of that part of him, his aura, if you will, his magnetism, his charm, while appreciated, seems to be practically taken, by the historian, as something beside the facts. The humor, the good looks, the smile, all of that seems to be finally taken as a pleasant side dish, sort of like Lincoln's charming folksiness, his gift for a story, his clumsy awkward form that somehow sustained so much strength and higher thought and the merging of poetry with public policy. "A house divided," he brought up, out of the good book, applying it, and made it apply like a ruler of truth to the situation.
And in the end, this is the fragile part, the part we cannot protect, the vulnerability we all have, as great as some of us are, as common as some of us are. "The world will little note, nor long remember…" The statesman, yes, comes and goes, and makes daily decisions that do effect the world, but a certain portion of that is something like ego, as maybe an Eckhardt Tolle might point out. Do you really think there's anything in Vietnam that you really can do that is going to make much of a difference? What comes of it is nothing but a huge tragic costly waste. The same might be said of the Civil War itself, even if we don't want to believe that. The world will go about its business, people will be people, economies will run as they want, exploitive as they may be. Perhaps then it is the ego stuff that attracts the nut job, the lone assassin in his own unhappy world, stuck as he is with his own ego and self importance.
In the end, it's as if we see the humility, the friendly human quality of a 'great man.' That's what we hold onto and remember, protect, keep safe, cherish somehow somewhere, as if they could be, in a way, part of our own lives, sitting in a room with us.