My son, you are just an infant now, but on that day when the world disrobes of its alluring cloak, it is then that I pray this letter is in your hands.Listen closely, my dear child, for I am more than that old man in the dusty portrait beside your bed. I was once a little boy in my mother’s arms and a babbling toddler on my father's lap.I played till the sun would set and climbed trees with ease and skill. Then I grew into a fine young man with shoulders broad and strong. My bones were firm and my limbs were straight; my hair was blacker than a raven's beak. I had a spring in my step and a lion's roar. I travelled the world, found love and married. Then off to war I bled in battle and danced with death.But today, vigor and grace have forsaken me and left me crippled.Listen closely, then, as I have lived not only all the years you have existed, but another forty more of my own.My son, We take this world for a permanent place; we assume our gains and triumphs will always be; that all that is dear to us will last forever.But my child, time is a patient hunter and a treacherous thief: it robs us of our loved ones and snatches up our glory. It crumbles mountains and turns stone to sand. So who are we to impede its path?No, everything and everyone we love will vanish, one day.So take time to appreciate the wee hours and seconds you have in this world. Your life is nothing but a sum of days so why take any day for granted? Don't despise evil people, they are here for a reason, too, for just as the gift salt offers to food, so do the worst of men allow us to savor the sweet, hidden flavor of true friendship.Dear boy, treat your elders with respect and shower them with gratitude; they are the keepers of hidden treasures and bridges to our past. Give meaning to your every goodbye and hold on to that parting embrace just a moment longer--you never know if it will be your last.Beware the temptation of riches and fame for both will abandon you faster than our own shadow deserts us at the approach of the setting sun. Cultivate seeds of knowledge in your soul and reap the harvest of good character.Above all, know why you have been placed on this floating blue sphere, swimming through space, for there is nothing more worthy of regret than a life lived void of this knowing.My son, dark days are upon you. This world will not leave you with tears unshed. It will squeeze you in its talons and lift you high, then drop you to plummet and shatter to bits . But when you lay there in pieces scattered and broken, gather yourself together and be whole once more. That is the secret of those who know.So let not my graying hairs and wrinkled skin deceive you that I do not understand this modern world. My life was filled with a thousand sacrifices that only I will ever know and a hundred gulps of poison I drank to be the father I wanted you to have.But, alas, such is the nature of this life that we will never truly know the struggles of our parents--not until that time arrives when a little hand--resembling our own--gently clutches our finger from its crib.My dear child, I fear that day when you will call hopelessly upon my lifeless corpse and no response shall come from me. I will be of no use to you then but I hope these words I leave behind will echo in your ears that day when I am no more. This life is but a blink in the eye of time, so cherish each moment dearly, my son.
If you drive the turnpikes and main-traveled highways of America you may have seen them… How many times have you found yourself waiting behind a lumbering RV eating exhaust and waiting impatiently for your chance to pass? Creeping along at forty when you could have been doing a perfectly legal sixty-five or even seventy? And when there’s finally a hole in the fast lane and you pull out—holy God—you see a long line of those damn things: gas hogs driven at exactly ten miles an hour below the speed limit driven by bespectacled golden oldies who hunch over their steering wheels, gripping them like they’re going to fly away. Or maybe you’ve encountered them in the turnpike rest areas when you stopped to stretch your legs and maybe drop a few quarters into the vending machines. The entrance ramps to those rest areas always divide in two, don’t they? Cars in one parking lot, longhaul trucks and RVs in the other. Usually the lot for the big rigs and RVs is a little farther away. You might have seen the True’s rolling motor homes parked in that lot, all in a cluster. You might have seen their owners walking up to the main building, slow because some of them look old and a lot of them are pretty darned fat. Always in a group. Always keeping to themselves……They’re annoying as Hell when they descend en masse on a rest area and fill up all the toilets, but once their balky, road-stunned bowels finally work and you’re finally able to take a pew yourself you put them out of your mind, don’t you? They’re no more remarkable than a flock of birds on a telephone wire or a herd of cows grazing beside the road. Oh, you might wonder how they can afford to fill those fuel guzzling monstrosities, because they must be on comfy fixed incomes how else could they spend all their time driving around like they do? And you might puzzle over why anyone would want to spend their golden cruising all those endless American miles between hoot and holler, but beyond that you probably never spared them a thought. And if you happen to be one of those unfortunate people who’s ever lost a kid—nothing left but a bike in the vacant lot down the street or a little cap lying in the bushes at the edge of a nearby stream—you probably never thought of them. Why would you? No, it was probably just some hobo, or, worse to consider but horribly plausible, some sick fuck from your very own town. Maybe your very own neighborhood. Maybe even your very own street. Some sick killer pervo who’s very good at looking normal and will go on looking normal until someone finds a clatter of bones in his basement or buried in his backyard. You’d never think of the RV people…
I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.
You can take Lucas to watch football when he’s older,’ she once told me. Ah, the rheumy-eyed grandpa on the terraces inducting the lad into the mysteries of soccer: how to loathe people wearing different coloured shirts, how to feign injury, how to blow your snot on to the pitch – See, son, you press hard on one nostril to close it, and explode the green stuff out of the other. How to be vain and overpaid and have your best years behind you before you’ve even understood what life’s about. Oh yes, I look forward to taking Lucas to the football.
In every remote corner of the world there are people like Carl Jones and Don Merton who have devoted their lives to saving threatened species. Very often, their determination is all that stands between an endangered species and extinction.But why do they bother? Does it really matter if the Yangtze river dolphin, or the kakapo, or the northern white rhino, or any other species live on only in scientists' notebooks?Well, yes, it does. Every animal and plant is an integral part of its environment: even Komodo dragons have a major role to play in maintaining the ecological stability of their delicate island homes. If they disappear, so could many other species. And conservation is very much in tune with our survival. Animals and plants provide us with life-saving drugs and food, they pollinate crops and provide important ingredients or many industrial processes. Ironically, it is often not the big and beautiful creatures, but the ugly and less dramatic ones, that we need most.Even so, the loss of a few species may seem irrelevant compared to major environmental problems such as global warming or the destruction of the ozone layer. But while nature has considerable resilience, there is a limit to how far that resilience can be stretched. No one knows how close to the limit we are getting. The darker it gets, the faster we're driving.There is one last reason for caring, and I believe that no other is necessary. It is certainly the reason why so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos, and dolphins. And it is simply this: the world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them.
Have you ever listened to a song from a long time ago; from your past; a song that was filled with so many memories tied to it, that you felt it so deeply- that it made you cry? And did you listen to it again, intentionally, for a second time? So you could travel back in time through that song; back when everything seemed so much simpler, basic, carefree? Those are the songs that are the soundtracks of our lives… the ones that bring back childhood memories, deep feelings, snapshots of our lives (or short videos), best friends, first loves, first heartbreaks… births, deaths. Our lives are like the record albums that we used to play just a few years ago; just yesterday. We played some of the songs over and over again- to the point of which we can sing along with every word as we play it. Other songs seem somewhat unfamiliar, as we rarely go back to listen to them; we skip over them or we barely listen to the start of it before we turn off the record player. But just like on an album and just like in our memories, you can't cut a song out off an album... just like you cant cut out a memory. The songs and memories remain there, side by side; the good ones, the bad ones, the ones that thrill us and the ones that hurt. Those are the songs that our lives are composed of. Those are the songs that we chase back, back into our our own memories in our private and personal musical time machines...
Many years later when I began training as a plastic surgeon, I understood something that I had not that day in the kitchen arguing for Thalia to leave Tinos for the boarding school. I learned that the world didn't see the inside of you, that it didn't care a whit about the hopes and dreams, and sorrows, that lay masked by skin and bone. It was as simple, as absurd, and as cruel as that. My patients knew this. They saw that much of what they were, would be, or could be hinged on the symmetry of their bone structure, the space between their eyes, their chin length, the tip projection of their nose, whether they had an ideal nasofrontal angle or not.Beauty is an enormous unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.
When you're traveling you need to take care of yourself to get by, you have to keep an eye on yourself and your place in the world. It means concentrating on yourself, thinking about yourself and looking after yourself. So when you travel all you really encounter is yourself, as if that were the whole point of it. When you're at home you simply are, you don't have to struggle with anything or achieve anything. You don't have to worry about the railways connections, and timetables, you don't need to experience any thrills or disappointments. You can put yourself to one side - and that's when you see the most.
How many times have you tried to talk to someone about something that matters to you, tried to get them to see it the way you do? And how many of those times have ended with you feeling bitter, resenting them for making you feel like your pain doesn't have any substance after all?Like when you've split up with someone, and you try to communicate the way you feel, because you need to say the words, need to feel that somebody understands just how pissed off and frightened you feel. The problem is, they never do. "Plenty more fish in the sea," they'll say, or "You're better off without them," or "Do you want some of these potato chips?" They never really understand, because they haven't been there, every day, every hour. They don't know the way things have been, the way that it's made you, the way it has structured your world. They'll never realise that someone who makes you feel bad may be the person you need most in the world. They don't understand the history, the background, don't know the pillars of memory that hold you up. Ultimately, they don't know you well enough, and they never can. Everyone's alone in their world, because everybody's life is different. You can send people letters, and show them photos, but they can never come to visit where you live.Unless you love them. And then they can burn it down.