"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
be-long Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English belongen, from be- + longen to be suitable -- more at LONG
1 a : to be suitable, appropriate, or advantageous b : to be in a proper situation
2 a : to be the property of a person or thing -- used with to b : to be attached or bound by birth, allegiance, or dependency c : to be a member of a club, organization, or set
3 : all that some people want, and what is impossible for some of them to find
"Michelle's run away from home. She's going to be over here a while, allright?" Michelle was a girl that lived in the next apartment building from ours, and you could tell looking at her that she had already packed far too much tragedy in her fifteen year old life and had just been dealt another bowl full. My daughter Jessica wanted to help her, which was The Right Thing to Do, so I said sure.
Apparently there had been a fight between Michelle and her father. I figured we could help her get it patched up.
Sure enough, only a few minutes later her father was knocking at our door.
"Come in," I said to him when he outlined the situation (which of course I already knew about.) It was obvious that he knew she was in our apartment with my daughter. I sat him in a chair over which I could see the door to my daughter's room, standing open. I knew we had an audience, as did he, and I was going to give this guy the chance for an Emmy nomination if he wanted it.
I guided the conversation with a lot of things like "Surely you love your daughter?" to which he would readily agree. It's been a while, so I don't remember the specifics, but it was going extremely well. I'm thinking to myself that we surely have been able to mend bridges. She'll come out sobbing, they'll hug, end of story.
He has said that he loves her, that he wants what's best for her, and then he says that he wants her back home again.
Michelle blew out of my daughter's room like bad biscuit dough from a warm tin. "You're lying!" she screamed at him with tears from about six inches from his face. "All you want is for me to be gone from your life so you can just run around all you want to!"
He sat there through this outburst and never cracked an expression. Time to set him up to be a hero.
I looked him right in the eye. "Well, how do you feel about that?"
He looked her right in the face, six inches in front of his, and said matter of factly, "Well, she's pretty much right."
Michelle blew up, burst into tears, and fled from our apartment. Her father gave me one of those "It's not my fault" shrugs and left after her.
Jessica and I looked at each other speechless and stunned.
By the end of the day I figure they had come to some sort of truce, or at least I think she was back home. Eventually Michelle ended up living with her mother, and I expect she continued to have tragedy haunt her like dust on a clay road.
Now that I am years older, I can see what Michelle was really saying way back then. All of her "acting out" behavior, all of the trouble she caused her parents, teachers and whatnot, was all because she wanted a place where she belonged, a place where she was wanted and loved just for herself.
Her father was just too selfish to give that to her.
There are millions of Michelles out there. You know some. You might even be one.
We were the "me" generation. What did you expect us to do with kids?
What do you think the Michelles will do later, when we are past our prime and at their mercy? How many selfish fathers will be shipped off alone to some minimal standard old folks home?
I hope every single one.
Glory built on selfish principles is shame and guilt.
William Cowper (1731 - 1800)