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GRADUATION DAY: I’M GLAD I’LL ALWAYS LIVE BY THE RIVER
Written By: F. John Surells
I’ve just put down the phone. Ralph called and said he’d just finished speaking via the phone to Rashon, who’d called to tell him that his (Rashon’s) “graduation day” chapter for this book would focus mainly upon certain perceptions and realizations which he’d discovered mentally over the years, but which today, probably because of this certain day’s importance, had this morning suddenly seemed so much clearer, and had actually startled him with (as he apparently described it to Ralph) “their immediateness.”
And, Ralph asked, because Rashon had decided to basically focus upon mental perceptions in his graduation day chapter, might I attempt to cater my discussions in my version of that same required graduation day composition to more “down to earth” topics – as he termed them. And, of course I told him I’d try to do so, although I admitted I’d already written (yes, I wrote some of my graduation day chapter prior to graduation day!) a fair amount of the chapter, and couldn’t really say that what had been written thus far might truthfully be looked upon as being “down to earth.”
So, as I’m standing here now, I’m trying to realign my thoughts, and shift them, so to speak, from what I’ll call “the philosophical” to “the pedestrian.” And, just now, my most immediate mental derivation, accrued from that attempted changeover, is the importance of what might be considered our most necessary, and therefore real human thought processes. Yes, they keep us alive! And, they guide us as we do all the earthly tasks we need to do to physically survive as humans upon planet Earth.
But, altering one’s train of thought can be fraught with difficulty. And, as I’m attempting now to confront my concerns about the present and future, I’m finding my mind wishing to focus upon the past instead. And, oh, I can’t help it! I can’t help but remember all those people I once knew, and all those things I once tried to do, and all those things I did and didn’t do; and I’m wondering whether or not it was right to have done or not to have done what I did and didn’t do.
And thus, I guess in a sort of melancholy helplessness my mind is now wandering back many years ago. And now I’m finding myself asking what surely must be one of time’s most timeless questions, i.e., “Why were we born into this life temporal?” And, I’m thinking that most likely everyone has asked and tried to answer that question. But personally, I have an answer for it which at first mention will probably seem hard-hearted, or even cruel – until it’s explained.
I think we live to pursue order! But, as we strive to achieve an orderly existence, all such goals and desires as are usually considered meaningful, and perhaps necessary in one’s life are by coincidence added to our resume of “real life occurrences;” in other words, they occur to us as either actual happenings, or as mental realizations which we learn to accept as the probable outcomes of various scenarios which themselves often become more or less commonplace over the years.
Yes, I believe as life goes on we become more and more familiar with the possible and probable outcomes which most often can be expected to be achieved from certain scenarios which for various reasons become those with which we most often find ourselves contending. But that doesn’t mean that variances from the “normal flow of life” don’t occur from time to time. Yes, sometimes we do experience “special” days in our lives. And today is such a day for me!
But, despite the fact that this day will be a very important one in my life, just now I’m still experiencing a phenomenon which, for me, is usually an everyday early morning occurrence. First, I think about the past. And, then, reluctantly I eventually acknowledge that it’s gone and can’t be changed – and shouldn’t be “re-spun” by those trying to justify errors of either commission or omission which they may have made or not made during it. But next, after I finish contemplating what’s gone forever, I then always find myself wondering whether what I envision might happen to me during this upcoming day, will in fact occur.
And, I reckon that second set of thoughts (those which concern only today) to be very narrow thoughts. They concern only the present. Yet, often after I have time to reflect further, I find my perspective sometimes expands to consider all my potential days of the future. And I won’t lie to you; I’m afraid of the future! I’m afraid of years to come when the violence which the youth of today is experiencing via prime time television programming and so-called “action filled” video games may be practiced in real life by those who’ve learned how to perpetrate it simply by viewing it in non-real settings. Can’t something be done about the garbage being produced by the entertainment industry nowadays? Or is it all a joke in most people’s opinion? Well, if it is a joke, it’s not a funny one.
And that mindless violence bothers me even today, although today is supposed to be “special” for me. And, besides that just mentioned violence, I’m also still being confronted by the scenario I described two paragraphs ago. And sometimes I really wonder why the prospect of possible events actually taking place frightens me as much as it does. And whenever I ponder the possible reason or reasons for such fear, it usually occurs to me that I’m worried about what others will think about, or “make of” any actions I might ever instigate, or have instigated by those same others toward me. And I’ve given a name to this type of fear. I call it legal conformity. And you may feel that’s not really an appropriate title for what’s being felt here, yet, I say it is, and here’s why.
Those two words, “legal” and “conformity,” are the two words which represent the boundaries of conduct currently considered acceptable by modern day man. The first references the rules and regulations one must follow if one is to remain within the law, while the second stipulates the modes of conduct which one must follow if one is to be considered a “normal” person. And, the two of them combined as a phrase (legal conformity), engender the fear within me which I alluded to in the previous paragraph.
Yes, I feel legal conformity presents mankind with many unfortunate tenets of life which it expects humans to follow as they journey along the highways of life. And, yes, I always use (as apparently many others do as well) the term “the Joneses” to describe conformity’s heroes and prophets. And, yes again, the Joneses interpret the miscellaneous events of passing time, and then grant their followers the proper stance which should be adapted by those followers toward each daily occurrence.
And there are, I’m told, a series of signposts that the Joneses follow as they proceed and lead
on the proverbial roads of life. And just as their followers revere the Joneses, so do the Joneses revere those who have written the rules of the everyday on those road-markers. And together, one might term those writers and their disciples the management of the “status-quo.”
And one might say, for purposes of analogy, that the greatest goal of members of the “status-quo” is to always conduct themselves as players in a checkers match would, or at least should. And of course, movements made by those players must always be made carefully, and only in response to movements committed by others. And unprovoked movements, perhaps attributed to free thought, are rejected not only by the Joneses, but also by those who wrote the rules of this phenomenon – this conformity of legality. And thus, according to the Joneses, players of life’s game must always conduct themselves in the proper fashion until they’re either rewarded with a kingly crowning, or cast away by opposition anarchists and their kings.
And when the game is over, what really has happened? Have some of the players gained
entrance to where we must all strive to enter? And if they have, was it because of their blind
adherence to worthless regulations promulgated by leaders whose belief in tradition is empty and
And maybe you think I make too much of keeping up with the Joneses. If so, ask yourself these questions: “What will happen someday if the Joneses lose their way?” and, “What will befall mankind if its guideposts along the roadway should rot, or be torn down by castaways?” and, “If any evil should ever befall the group of status and/or its leaders, would a part or parts of that group, as well as some or all of its leaders be then rendered incapable or unworthy to lead – or follow?” and, “If indeed the ‘status-quo’ someday found itself in need of new managers and/or leaders, would new messiahs emerge to rewrite the conduct of order?”
And you know, to me it’s almost unbelievable how free one becomes when one no longer needs to follow the Joneses! But, let’s admit that this liberation from the Joneses can come only from within one’s own soul, from where it must be accepted within one’s heart, and then take root within one’s mind. And how many times in the past, either in its totality, or in variations thereof, have you heard or read what you’ve just now read? Yet, how seldom is this perception really understood? And a primary reason for this, of course, is that those who are setting the rules of proper conduct claim that failure to adhere to those rules will result in increased crime. And that’s a bogus assertion of course. Why? Because perpetrators of crimes are usually not a part of the Joneses circle of influence. But most of them probably know of the Joneses’ lifestyle. And most of them probably know how they themselves should live. Yet, those two pieces of knowledge don’t deter them from committing unlawful acts.
But, sometimes I find my disdain for the Joneses and the lifestyle of the “status-quo”
actually brings a strange sort of peacefulness to my state of mind! And I feel thus when what I’ll term here a “solidarity with self” descends upon me. And rather than attempt an explanation of that concept, let me simply tell you the effect it always has upon me. At such times as when my state of mind is controlled by that self-entitled “solidarity with itself,” I feel then as might perhaps the last man of a production crew preparing to leave a concert hall where a great performance has just been given. And, just before shutting off the final lights, and locking the final door, he pauses, takes a last look at a theatre now silent and empty, which only moments before had been filled and greatly alive, and then no doubt sometimes wonders, “Did what occurred here tonight occur for any other reason than simple entertainment?”
Oh, and I hope you grasped the seriousness of the impression left in the preceding sentence! And I say that because I fear mortal eyes can’t always see through the significance of events around them; nor can mortal minds often perceive the symbolism connected with happenings in the present. No, often human eyes and minds can’t associate how all occurrences lead us toward one of the two possible abodes of eternity.
But then again, even though one may come to learn of one’s inability to fully picture or
comprehend how matters of the everyday serve the kingdom of eternity, still one often senses how
strange it is that temporal time keeps on! And is it within one’s heart that one feels and senses what
one’s eyes and mind perceive, but can’t always transpose from observations temporal to realizations
eternal? I would imagine the answer to that question is “yes.”
Yet, is not every second its own realization? Well, surely with the mindset of a human mortal
is how we perceive each one. And indeed, passing thoughts we’ve only just now given birth to are already a part of history! And no doubt much, and perhaps most of humanity thinks that what’s hidden within the mundane events of life are perceptions only to be joked about. And many individual members of mankind’s family may feel all symbolism is but a fabrication. Therefore, is it noble or stupid to admit that such an act as lifting a pencil takes a place in history alongside the great events such as wars or famous discoveries? And what of passing thoughts, and the decisions they may have led to? And what is one to deduce from the fact that the decision to wash one’s car is now a part of history just as much so as the decision made by the Normans to invade England in 1066, and then conversely the decision having been made by the allies to invade Normandy in 1944?
And if, in your opinion, I’m only holding on by a thread here as I try to enunciate my views concerning what I term “natural changes,” don’t expect an apology from me soon. But I don’t wish to resort to self-pity. Yet, I do believe it’s true that while many knew of the good times in the sunshine, others such as myself seemingly always struggled within the darkness imported from a
room of failure and evil. And, people like us always provided the fodder that allowed others to laugh the laugh of non-concern, and then, while they laughed, we suffered with the possibility of more problems to come.
Yes, this will be the last chapter I’ll write for this book. And, as I close out my contributions to this literary effort, I’d like to share (as per Ralph’s request) a few personal perceptions with you.
I can remember how, as a student of “real life” schools (elementary, secondary, college etc.), I was told to prepare for what supposedly would be an honorable future lived in an honorable nation. And I was informed that Americans, by and large were a kind and compassionate populace of mankind. But then years passed, and I learned someone else’s version of that truth. Oh, but before I relate that version of that truth, let me say that the “reality of being” I’d learned of earlier in life wasn’t different in its explanation and “real life occurrences.” It was only different in its “presentation” by certain powerful, as well as certain very weak mortals who today have apparently seized control of the conscience of life prevalent now in the early years of the twenty first century.
And, also before I relate that truth, let me say that I’m one of only a very few mortals who’ve been granted an escape from all that happens in real world settings. And I’ll always remember the evening Renni and I were at home enjoying a TV show, when the phone rang, and a man named Ralph Hawk introduced himself to me, and changed my and Renni’s lives forever. And yes, we accepted his invitation to live with him and others by the river which intersects a city such as is not known anywhere else on this planet. Yes, that city follows the laws and directives of otherworldly and other-reality overlords. And though it’s a part of the United States of America, it can’t be administrated by any of that nation’s state or local governments.
And here, in this city, we live a life apart from so-called normalcy, although by far, most of our city’s residents are still what would be considered blue-collar. But, a growing artistic subculture (to which Renni and I of course belong) is now thriving and continuing to grow in apartments, duplexes, and single family homes along the river banks of this city. And in this city, people such as Renni and I live for artistic advancement. Yet, we’re not cut off from society. We know very well what’s going on in the world around us. And we’re not stupid. And now it’s time for me, through a combined usage of satire and hard-core realism, to tell you where I believe life is “at” in the United States of America and the rest of the world today.
Years ago I didn’t know that success in life was apparently something to be scoffed at. And I didn’t know then that those who were successful needed to be portrayed as heartless money-grabbers who only cared about themselves, and, whose success in life was actually limiting the possibilities of the less fortunate, even though sometimes those who found themselves less fortunate didn’t have the gumption to improve their own lives anyway.
And when I moved to this city, I was blatantly exposed to what I spoke about in the last paragraph. As you’ve learned by now, Lauren Havess’es father was an entrepreneur who founded this city’s largest employment site. And although over the years that factory provided a fairly good means of support for many of the families of this city, little appreciation was ever shown to Mr. Havess. And, what’s worse, I can tell you that many in this city reviled him. And why? The only reason I can see was jealousy. They disliked him (in some cases) and hated him (in others). And why? I guess it was basically because he’d become rich and successful while they’d remained members of the middle class (certainly nothing to be ashamed of) or welfare recipients (also nothing to be ashamed of as long as one is truly in need of assistance, and not “ripping society off” so to speak).
But if my final words in this book seem harsh, I can’t help but believe I need to write them. Frankly, I’m growing tired of a society which continually denigrates its most successful members! Yet, I also know (as well as everyone else I suppose) that some of our nation’s most wealthy do live in pure arrogance. And notice that in the last sentence I used the word arrogance, and not the word affluence. Their wealth and success doesn’t bother me. But if they’re indifferent to the plights of others, that does bother me. And every time I think about these juxtapositions: wealth/poverty, success/failure, and ambition/laziness, I always remember that all of those will fade away someday on individual bases; although, in my opinion, to maintain the viability of the capitalist system (and believe me it needs to be maintained, else we’ll all live in dictatorship), those who are wealthy must be able to keep their wealth within their own families upon the deaths of various members of those families.
And thus, I guess I could, and probably should say that today what many term “political correctness,” is viewed as simple jealousy and self-pity by me. And, I fear those two traits (jealousy and self-pity) portend disaster for the future as they daily gain momentum in our society. And what will ultimately occur as more and more young Americans are taught that simply by pursuing the goals they may wish to achieve in their lives, they’ll be simultaneously stymying the advancement of such people as are considered less fortunate, regardless of the fact that many of those types are living in this country illegally. And tell me if I’m wrong, but today it looks to me as if America’s new heroes are those who, for reasons either unfortunate or criminal (and in many cases both), find themselves unable to fend for themselves and be self-sufficient (legally at least).
What’s happening to you America? Your borders are being overrun by foreigners. Welfare cheaters and illegal aliens are taking their toll on your economy. Killers are roaming you schools, workplaces, and centers of entertainment. Domestically, your society is under a constant threat of terrorist action. And internationally the respect which other nations once had for you is disappearing; indeed, many consider you to barely be a super power capable of doing much good for the world any longer.
And, of course, abroad all sorts of horrific activities are generating a new type of peril which now threatens not only you and your citizens, but all law abiding peoples of all nations. And what are you and many of those other nations doing about this fact – very little to be sure! All of you are basically twiddling you thumbs, while in certain lands murderous thugs are executing innocent civilians, and forcing other residents of some of those lands to seek shelter elsewhere in nations other than their birth, where surely their presence will be a hardship for the original populaces of those “host” nations.
Do something to right these wrongs America! Regain your strength and prestige! And once again help yourself and others remain free from dictatorship, as you’ve done on numerous occasions in the past. – And stop telling your young that they and their parents are to blame for all of Earth’s problems, while actually that blame should be assigned to such people who take no responsibility for their own actions, and who routinely break all earthly social and governmental laws if it’s to their own advantage to do so.