Saturday, June 03, 2006

6.03.06, "In delecto flagratis almost..." A Poem

Weekends are quiet time on the blog. It seems like the readership cuts to about half. People are more engaged with their lives than they are with their jobs perhaps, less activity they want to avoid, or perhaps everyone needs a break from the seriousness that underlies even the best attempts at making a joke of all this. In reality, I'm sure no on thinks about it. Speaking of readers, our anonymous Film Studies person out there wrote me an email, btw, a few days ago that made me almost wet myself, so I'm wondering maybe I can twist his arm and get a pertinent film review for us here — what would the film be though? Or if I can get permission to post the email... I'll make an offer.

Too, reminder, where are the suggestions for the contest of naming this "time in life" or "time at the end of life" or whatever it is? I received about three suggestions from two people. The deal was that the winner gets a prize of her/his choice and I try to write some poem from the title. I'm rather disappointed . . . :-(

Franky Scale: 7, "7" seems to be a kind of "fine" number, with nothing too out of sorts, no supercalafrajelistic good events, just kind of doing all right and getting by. The only new physical news is that I saw a nurse practitioner last Tuesday when I was doing the IV chemo and he sat with me to plan a few programs of pill-taking, nausea management, and the like. One program involves prune juice — you can figure out which program — and I thought I like prunes OK but pure prune juice is truly heinous. I wish upon no one. Pure prune juice and original flavor Milk of Magnesia. Why are these tastes related?

Change of course: just for the hell of it, I thought I'd include a short occasional poem. There was much talk of poetry in the last week, and this piece has a bit to do with blog-related themes, in the sanse that it touches on love and love touches everything. So love, its death, departure, and I'd rather not say too much. (Font is odd, sorry.)

"“In delecto flagratis —almost"”

Facts and evidence only distort
the truth, my love, keep us
focused enmeshedly on the trees
so we don't know from forest.
I chose long ago to ignore
the facts so that I, in love
I thought, could keep you pure
despite so many incriminating
pieces of news, such factual appearance.
(I chose to let love live, despite.)
Now I learn you loved, too, so
well, you averred no bounds
save my indiscretion — admitted, sorrowful
nearly flagrant — revealed itself and
then your love chose sides.
Or, was it the other way around?

in a world that never
happened, I defeated some imaginary
foe and you, well, I love you still.

in the real world ignorance lays
slain at your shaking feet and love, well,
love you have seen out the door
— sword in hand.

Friday, June 02, 2006

6.02.06, The Art of Working Wood

[First, huge thanks to all who stepped up for blog solidarity during the last couple of days. It means a lot to me, I wish I could better express it.]

Working on the wood, or the juncture of psychiatry and carpentry. Where is that juncture located precisely? (One could confuse this reference to carpentry in the sense of the Jewish carpenter, christianity, etc., but here I mean more something like "the art of working wood.") Why would I bring this up here? Why today? Well, it all has to do with my meeting with Dr. A yesterday — Dr. A, you'll recall is my Dr. Melfi.

Since we took care of most of the basic questions and the demographics during our first "session," our second meeting yesterday afternoon was more productive it seemed. It's not an infinite number of questions, rather it's a small number of really thorny questions that we're trying to tackle. The blog is a fairly open and candid forum I think, and yet, I don't know that everything from my meetings with my shrink need to be brought out, not all those questions. With some issues I'm OK. And one or two that we broached yesterday completely made me laugh. About 15 minutes into our meeting she pulls out the laminated sheet of paper — 8.5 by 11 — blues, yellows, white, a color copy with frowny faces, neutral faces, happy faces, and numerous other symbols. I didn't think it was anything Freemasonic, still it wasn't clear at first exactly what was going on here graphically. Then she begins to explain. The physical and the emotional continuums, the numbers from 1 to 10, etc. So I say, "Oh, you must be speaking of the Franky Scale."


Although she didn't know the reference to the FS initially, she is of nimble enough mind to catch up and follow. We talked Franky Scale briefly, nothing new there. Apparently the professionals use the FS too. Today, btw, I'll go back to a 7 for the Franky Scale due to slightly better drug management on my part — though my irritability level might be higher/lower (i.e., more severe) than usual. We got the FS out of the way and I notice there are a number of other scales on this sheet. We move on. New adjectives are introduced, different numeric scales, in fact, a qualitativly different type of assessment too. What is she getting at? I thought. I began hearing words like "desire," "frequency," and "hard." This is not just for set up of the story — I really thought when she was talking about degree of "hardness" she was speaking of difficulty; and for a few moments I'm thinking in my chemo brain about what would be the value of a scale that, in part, determines difficulty. Is it difficulty of daily tasks? Difficulty of pain management? Nausea? The little irritations that tend to grow under the chemo rain? What? Am I getting stupid? What's happening?

No, IT'S WOOD. She's talking about the wood scale and I'm practically falling off my chair. It's not about being prudish, as I think many who know me will attest, it's just cracking my shit up that she's got a scale which essentially IS the Wood Scale. Remember many blog posts ago? A few of you were suggesting, you lecherous types, that I actually post a Wood Scale too, to accompany the Franky Scale. I wasn't going there though — not that much disclosure folks. Sorry. Besides, my mother reads this! But Dr. A goes there, very matter of fact, tying it nicely in to the various other issues, or Issues, I'm trying to figure out. So I'd like you to all know that while I may only post the Franky Scale results in here, it looks like I will be "posting" my Wood Scale too.

That, however, just once a week & it's between me and Dr. Melfi. :-) (you perverts!)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

6.01.06, Open Letter to the Anonymous Mormon

“An Open Letter on Missing the Forest for a Few Trees”

[Dear Friends and Readers, the following letter is my reply to a person who posted a comment last night, a comment you can link to through the previous blog post on "Heavy Soul?"--it's the second comment. The person posted as "anonymous" but also using the pseudonym "Neptune." For my non-mormon friends, forgive the occasional obstruse reference (a quick Google should find what you need, or email me), but you will get the tone and gist of his post and my reply without difficulty. For my mormon or christian friends, who are supportive and with whom I have relationships of mutual respect, you'll already know that the points I make in this letter refer to one person, this anonymous "Neptune," and they are a specific reply to the comment made, or rather the intent behind it. -Mr. J.]

Dear Uninvited Mormon Person:

So what do we know about you from your comment? Clearly you are a Mormon — congratulations. Surely you made your choice to become LDS once you had past the callow age of 38; or instead was it that you had full cognizance of the consequences of the entire belief system and of your actions at the spiritually mature age of eight when you were likely baptized? What else do we know? You’re male, you’re older than 38, you lack decency. Clearly the LDS church has instilled in you that too common Christian virtue of accusatory self-righteousness — oh, wait, that’s not a virtue from the Holy Scriptures, is it? In fact, not even the Mormon additions to the good book advocate it. Hm, oh well. As I was saying, clearly you have been blessed with self-righteousness and the capacity to judge another’s heart, but sadly you were not given any balls — though I’m sure you are a priesthood holder. On the subject of balls, Neptune — or should I call you Kolob? — why do you not stand up for what you believe and what you choose to preach so disrespectfully in a forum where anyone blessed with Christian empathy, or plain old human empathy, would know their comments are unwelcome (not just by me, but by hundreds of my friends in this time of need, a time you also have disrespected), why don’t you grow some balls and identify yourself? (And you will note, I decided to reply to your post, rather than simply raise myself above it, because you deeply disturbed someone I love, someone who is grieving now, something apparently you cannot understand as you polish your stone.)

I have reasons, perhaps certain professional and personal ones, for not fully making my name, etc. available to any stranger on the web — but most all my readers and my supporters know who I am. Perhaps you will choose to respect this, or not, that is your choice. So we all know who I am, while you hide. What is it you have to lose? What do you fear? Now is your moment to make friends and influence people, the field is white all ready to harvest. Your moment to show all these good readers what a good, nee even model, Mormon citizen looks like. What is it to you what I have done with my agency, my knowledge, and my experiences in my short 38 years? What is to you, Elder Anonymous? Your behavior vaguely reminds me of a presumptuous Mormon Bishop who chose to disrespect an untimely deceased 23-year old nephew of mine, his family, and his loved ones by offering strangely defensive and uninvited opinions of his from a funeral pulpit just over a year ago. Tis sad to see an individual’s personal ideology totally cloud his capacity for careful reading / listening, yet such is the case with most all sawdust ceasars and would-be demagogues. But that’s another story.

So here we find ourselves in a moment I think, objectively, we can call tragic. Go read your scriptures more carefully, go seek counsel from someone who is genuinely religious; perhaps go and ask the question: What would Jesus do? Would he hide his identity and, pardon my French but, would he be such an insensitive prick as to intrude in a forum — my blog — where people are seeking what solace they can? Where people are in pain, where they grieve, where they can share what is important to them? Would a “real” Christian, who should care to ease the pain of others, interfere like this with his petty desires to be proven “right”? Clearly you’ve lived longer than my short 38 years and yet all your existence does is prove the point that it is neither age nor authority that brings wisdom, compassion, empathy, or respect for another’s pain. Let me spell it out for you — whatever I believe, I am walking straight into death and trying to hold my head up as I do so, show some respect for me, my family, and my loved ones at this time.

Although I dislike the counterfactual, remember that even if you were right — sorry but this doctrinal irony is irresistable — remember that there is no Hell in the Mormon belief system. Have you never learned this? First off, I could never be a candidate for Outer Darkness, so no luck there. Go study it again. No brimstone, no fire, no eternal damnation. Secondly, your buddy Joseph Smith had a vision, remember, in which he was shown the Telestial Kingdom (the least glorious of the three kingdoms where humans can go after this life), and what did he report? If I may paraphrase, he said “It is so incredibly beautiful there that you would take you own life to go there immediately if you could see it!”

And do not fear, Elder, this is not “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture” — this is merely the philosophy of one man, mortal, human, fallible, and faced with a challenge which you should pray to your god you never have to face. If I didn’t know people like you better, I would be stunned at your insensitivity. I recall one of the low points of American history, the tail end of a witch hunt with Welch’s inquiry to McCarthy; I recall this line and ask it of you but change the word Senator for Elder: “Have you no sense of decency, Elder? Have you no sense of decency?” Or should I say in language closer to your heart, in the carpenter’s idiom: “It must be nice to be worthy enough to cast the first stone”?

In sum, and with all the respect that is your due, kiss my ass, and sign your name next time, dearest Kolob.

Sincerely Yours,
Mr. Jones

Franky Scale: 6-7

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

5.31.06, Heavy soul? Or, the Last Piece of Laundry

“Heavy Soul? Or, the Last Piece of Laundry”

The weight of it. Question: Is there such a thing as soul? Not musically, not sartorially, but in terms of humans and animals? Yes, I’m asking what seems to be the blasphemous question, do humans have a soul? Do humans and animals? Just humans? Why does everyone assume so? What is so frightening about thinking otherwise? . . . This all makes me wonder, does the anecdote of Sir Walter Raleigh proposing a method for measuring the weight of smoke shed any light on the question? Does it have any metaphysical implications?

The set up. First I guess we have to recount the story of Mr. Tobacco in England. This I can borrow since Paul Auster (model for the character “Paul” below) already set it up cleanly as one of the scenes between William Hurt, as the author, and Harvey Keitel, as the Brooklyn corner store owner, in the movie Smoke (1995). It goes something like this:

PAUL . . . (Pause) Did you ever hear of Sir Walter Raleigh?

TOMMY Sure. He's the guy who threw his cloak down over the puddle.

JERRY I used to smoke Raleigh cigarettes. They came with a free gift coupon in every pack.

PAUL That's the man. Well, Raleigh was the person who introduced tobacco in England, and since he was a favorite of the Queen's -- Queen Bess, he used to call her -- smoking caught on as a fashion at court. I'm sure Old Bess must have shared a stogie or two with Sir Walter. Once, he made a bet with her that he could measure the weight of smoke.

DENNIS You mean, weigh smoke?

PAUL Exactly. Weigh smoke.

TOMMY You can't do that. It's like weighing air.

PAUL I admit it's strange. Almost like weighing someone's soul. But Sir Walter was a clever guy. First, he took an unsmoked cigar and put it on a balance and weighed it. Then he lit up and smoked the cigar, carefully tapping the ashes into the balance pan. When he was finished, he put the butt into the pan along with the ashes and weighed what was there. Then he subtracted that number from the original weight of the unsmoked cigar. The difference was the weight of the smoke.
— from Smoke (director, Wayne Wang)

The difference was the weight of smoke; or if you think it metaphysically, the difference is the weight of the soul. There was once, one time, when I sat back slowly and watched the life cigar smoke down, I noticed the addition and subtraction at work to determine that difference — the weight of the soul — when I was excommunicated from the Mormon church (age 24). Elsewhere, I’ve read that over the ages enlightened scientists have tried to measure a human body just as it Expires, see what goes out of it (which must be soul, right?), work inductively, etc., and it’s been done in literature too, but the present metaphor, the cigar, will suffice.

After smoke. I was given at least one immediate blessing with excommunication, “blessing,” to borrow a religious term. I realized within moments after walking out of the Disciplinary Court held to determine my worthiness or lack thereof — a university classroom converted each Sunday to religious use, filled with 15 men in suits, and me. I was the defendant in the court just mentioned; five of the High Councilmen were assigned to me as “defenders” and five were assigned to be “prosecutors.” In retrospect, I can’t help but think the terms of “defender” was being used loosely, their role filled in a very pro forma way. The term “prosecutor” was quite accurate. The other three men were the Stake President and his two Counselors, “neutral” parties, simply acting as conduits to ensure that God’s will be done — and if it’s all up to God, you might ask, then why hold a court proceeding in the first place? Why not simply ask God what the judgment is and be done with it? (NB: A knowledgeable Mormon will accurately protest that this proceeding is no longer called a “court”--I know this, but it changes little; now it is more euphemistically called a Disciplinary Council. That's like "resection" for "cut me open and remove body parts" — it's gonna feel the same whatever you like to call it.)

For an hour or so my past sins are dragged out and recounted, I am accused, questioned, and vigorously cross-examined when I answer or attempt to explain. All very medieval and out of joint if you ask me. In any event, God apparently decided that He loved me so much He should kick me out of His kingdom, i.e., that I should be excommunicated, kicked out of His community, kicked out of His university, etc. All well and good, as I know now, but a big shock to an earnest 24 year old. Expansive light blue sky in autumn, crisp and clear, and filled with nothing at all except my gaze and my future. When I walked outside and into that memorable autumn morning once it was finished, I had a series of epiphanies. One occurred right then, and I realized that only at that moment, or only from that moment, could I really make choices on my own. You might call it the first taste of real freedom — a twist on the doctrine found in John: “…ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Only then could I begin to make choices based on morals, ethics, rules, whatever you will call them, ethics that I established, agreed with, and chose to uphold of my own free will, or free agency, to borrow another church word. Then, one of the epiphanies concerned soul.

Why this presumption that humans have a soul? Do they? How would one know this? If we do have one then what’s the purpose? Is there one, from where, to where…? And so go the questions. There were similar questions I began to ask and answer, again finally able to do this on my own, without my thoughts and epistemology being circumscribed by what has already been determined (by those in authority, most always white men, coincidence?) acceptable to a given institution and its rules. God? Good and evil? Etc. A number of years would help me answer most of these questions to my satisfaction, would help me establish a reasonable system of ethics for life, but the question of soul still hangs out there like a last piece of laundry on the line. And do I have an answer now? Hm. This isn’t meant as romantic irony but, honestly here, I don’t know that I do have an answer. I’m inclined not to believe, however, for reasons that will make sense to those who feel the same and that will baffle those who could see where I was headed in paragraph one and didn’t want to come along. The slippery slope!

From a materialist perspective, for example, the answer is no. No soul — except in some music, some clothing. We have bodies, nerves, thoughts / consciousness, neuro-electric impulses and the like, but it’s all shut off at death. The old Seattle motto: “Last one out, turn off the lights!” Consciousness, or rather the conscious and the unconscious, these are real but do they constitute soul? I’ll grant you “personality,” but why does it have to be soul? What’s up with the transcendental yearning? Even some of my most critical friends cling to the notion of the soul. I guess it keeps us human, quite literally. Whether it exists or not, just like the idea of god, most of us seem to need it. So be it. Or like the snot-nosed kid, Kolya, kissing up to Alyosha K. in The Brothers Karamazov, if such a thing as soul didn’t exist we’d have to invent it. (He says “god” I say “soul.”) Imagine the sacrilege: “I have no soul!”? — lines that just might turn you into one of Dostoyevsky’s devils. Devils or angels, let’s just that my soul is not too high on my worry list these days.

It can be explained a number of ways, and I kind of like this one. It’s Jung, who I think’s a very hit-or-miss thinker but on certain simple, pragmatic psychological questions he can be clear-sighted. Like “soul.” In Psychological Types, he writes “by soul I understand a definitely demarcated function complex that is best characterized as a ‘personality’”(cf. Part II, definition 48). It’s a subdivision of what he calls the psyche (sum total of all psychic processes) and it’s one that is inevitably and determinately object- or other-oriented (cf. Lacan) — meaning what? That we change our “soul” or personality to adapt to social conditions, needs, or obligations, and we do it according to our own needs, desires, expectations in relation to these conditions. Not a very sexy way to understand “soul,” sorry, but that’s where I am. You could also say “…the persona [or soul] is a function complex which has come into existence for reasons of adaptation or necessary convenience, but by no means is it identical with the individuality.” (There are some decent ideas on this his Basic Writings, 1993, 338-344, 544-545; & S. Timpanaro may not say “soul” but his On Materialism is great.). So we run into this related concept of individuality which, through definitions from Aristotle to Marx, comes out about the same: the individual subject and individuality are both notions defined only through social relations, primarily bourgeois ones in our lovely modern period. But I digress.

A lot’s been said — in one-sided blog fashion, true, but you either read this far or skimmed here — but there is a method to all this crazy talk. Among my friends and family I have a lot of people on both sides; to reduce it to just two, very loosely we could say there is the “Thank you Jesus” crowd and the “Thank you Cheebus” crowd. I’m just trying to share some of my thoughts on the big D coming up, not convince anybody, not coerce, definitely not preach — I already spent my two years crusading. There is just something about the Raleigh story I like, and I think there is more at stake in that little tale than the weight of smoke. And you know, now that I think about it, I realize I don’t even own a scale. Does that mean I’m secretly afraid I might have a soul, or am I actually a materialist?

Franky Scale: 6 but fading a bit.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

5.30.06, [Rant] Squeal Like a Pig!

[p.s. I did finish a more meditative piece on the weight of the human soul, and other characteristics of it--mildly entertaining--but it must wait]

I am fucking pissed off. I'm still working through this in another document and then I'll post, but I just wanted to give a heads up that it's on its way. Goddam financial ghouls in our world.

Franky Scale: 7, the FS is for physical feeling, so 7, and the IV chemo happens later today, in about two hours and that kind of gives me the illusion, or reality, of having most of a good day before the toxins are poured in through the port-o-cath. (Every time I see that word I think of an Irish bar. Maybe today I'll sit back in the bed or blue chemo chair and say "Nurse, I'd like your sampler of benzodiazepines and a double shot of Jameson 12-year. Just stick it right into my port-o-cath, thanks so much. And keep 'em coming.")

okay, hold on.... (going to write it all down...)

So I know at least one film-studies professor who reads this--or at least I think he reads it now and then--and I would expect him to know the allusion of today's title; even if you're not a film or cinema person, a lot of you should still get this (Think backwoods, think poet James Dickey's novel turned film...). So you'll guess from the start how happy I am about how today has gone. I've been on the phone all morning with various individuals trying to square away certain financial matters, and I have been jerked off the whole goddam morning. It's a good thing I do have a benzodiazepine or two around in order to take edge of this.

Another small comfort is that the newly discovered (well, last year, 6 months ago?) Coltrane CD One Down, On Up was just delivered to my door and I have that playing, cold comfort it feels, though, against the totalitarian / authoritarian (I think it's both the more I consider it) capitalist bullshit we live with. You can't even die without the bastards screwing you. Isn't there a legal-esque phrase? --Non carperendum illegitimus!. Something like that, my Latin's rusty but goddam right, I say.

It begins with Chase, a credit card account that very fortunately now has a zero balance--though it took me just about, what, 15 years to get it there--and new charges that are marring my "Zero." Some bullshit promotion that I took for one month then called to discontinue--my stupidity I suppose and I should have known they would keep charging me; however, what surprised me was that Chase refused to do anything about the charges, even when I tell them I didn't ask for it, it's not my service, they're charging me against my will, and pathetically so on. All I can do is call this third party (who, btw, works under Chase!) But, that's small potatoes compared to my employer.

All academics who read this post nota bene: especially those of you who work at a certain large research university in the greater Seattle area should be interested in this. I call one of my 403b accounts / companies ("403b" is the nonprofit equivalent of "401k" for people who work in the private sector), it's retirement, "I'm gonna die" I tell them, and "I'd like to check on how I can withdraw my money and possibly avoid penalties. My situation, you know, is kind of special," I say. I expect to hear, "Well, I'm sorry you're gonna die but you still gotta pay the penalties"--kind of inhumane but look at the System. (And go watch the 1975 film Rollerball, seriously.) Yeah, my dialog is stupid and awkward but have you ever done this before? I don't know what to say. So Sam from Fidelity is nice enough but he informs me "Your employer has set it up so that you cannot withdraw a penny unless you x-fer it when you switch employers or you retire." So we go through this Abbot and Costello routine where I keep explaining, "No, no, no. You see it's a hardship thing, terminal illness, blah blah blah." You know, who's on first? but with money rules. In short, "nada, nada, nada, not a damn thing," if I can quote Q-Tip.

Later. Speaking with a "Specialist" at X University where I am "employed," they fucking confirm this! Your retirement money, "your" money all of my friends out there, you can have it only (1) at retirement, (2) at quitting, sort of, (3) at your fucking death--not right before, but they'll release it in their kindness once/when/after you die. This is a tremendous help to me, with no dependents--Gee thanks, folks. You know what else, my colleagues? You cannot ever stop your contributions once you enroll--should you decide there are more pressing issues in your life, you find yourself cash poor for a few months, you truly do experience hardship and need to stop putting aside 7.5 percent (or whatever your rate is), well, I believe the official university line is: "Squeal like a pig!" Apparently there is no "hardship" at University of X. It makes me feel rather warm and fuzzy inside--I've got a job where there is no hardship, had I known I would have enjoyed it so much more blissfully till now. Ahh.

Let's continue. Not only does this mean that I've been wrong and naive when I've bragged about my retirement plan "It's great, they match 100% of my contribution up to 7.5 percent of salary, AND it's immediately vested, it's mine!" Slight correction, so I've learned, which is that not only is the "immediate vestment" a complete crock of shit--i.e. a prevarication, a flat out lie--but even the money you yourself, I myself, invest does not belong to you for 30 years or whatever until you retire. Sure it's a "retirement" plan, but they take the money and you have ZERO access, not even *with* penalties; their matching contributions *and* your own share. AND YOU CAN'T WITHDRAW from contributing. It's a total racket. This racket defines non-liquidity. In my very pissed off opinion it also defines unfair, unreasonable, authoritarian, and just goddam hurtful. I do not need to be catered to in this Life Situation, but yeah, I could be thrown a bone on this one. I could spit I'm so incensed.

I am also not a financial genius and would love to learn that I've missed something crucial here, that there is a way around it, that there is in fact a humanizing solution to this. Granted there are one or two options related to viaticals and life insurance but I've asked and asked and talked to the people "who know." I feel like I should go read Kafka again for some insight, but I just reread all of Kafka a few weeks ago. No use. OK. I don't know if I feel any better after my little rant but it is what it is, or as they say after most tragic situations on The Sopranos: "What 're you gonna do?"

Monday, May 29, 2006

5.28.06, [Guest Blog, by Deeker] How to Act Normal

[My two bits b/f the guest: We have a good line up over the next few days: guest blog today (couple days late, my fault), musings on the weight of the human soul tomorrow, chemo Tuesday all the drinks are half off ;-), another poem or two, and depending on my energy level mid-week we might even see some extra-jesus.

Franky Scale: for Sunday = 6, not great; for Monday/today, so far a 7--I might sneak back later and add on a bit. Don't forget to hydrate. xox -Mr. J]

This is Deeker, I’m doing the guest blog because I’m visiting my buddy Mr. Jones for a few days. I consider him one of my closest friends, and yet the last time I’d seen him before this was literally two years ago, when he came to visit me out east. We’d kept saying we’d get together and hang out, but always were too busy…it’s one of those things you think about at a time like this: “Were the day to day details really so important that I couldn’t find time to visit my friend even ONCE in 25 months?” But I’m here now, and hope to visit him more often in the future.

So what do I write, without seeming too ponderous, and also not too flippant? Well, a few things come to mind. First, Mr. Jones is an awesome, awesome, friend. He’s always been that way. He listens, talks, is sincere, friendly, and yet totally able to be as adventurous and wild as anybody I’ve ever known. It’s just great to spend time with him. We only met later in life, while doing research overseas, past the point you tend to make genuine, close friends. But Mr. Jones is the type of person who is so genuine that we became very close. It doesn’t tend to happen at my advanced age, but in this case it did, and I’m profoundly grateful to have met him and known him.

Also, I’ve been prodding him about some stuff. I think he should lease a Benz and live a little – he still lives like a graduate student! Empty the 403b and use it now, worry about dealing with retirement when he gets there. Consider a viatical, too…

When I got off the plane, I told Mr. Jones that I wasn’t quite sure how to interact with him. That is, do I tiptoe around “the issue”? Do I treat him with more sensitivity than normal? Or do I just act as normal as possible even if that can seem somehow a little callous, but at least it’s normal? I told him I'd follow his lead but the default was just acting normal. As a result, I've been pestering him to get the Benz.

But it also brings out that question – how do you live your life concentrating on what’s important, and not getting sidetracked by mundane details that seem important but in retrospect aren’t? How could I let two years go by? What other aspects of life are passing by without being fully experienced – wallowed in – while my thoughts and emotions are focused on something far less important? What makes the situation with Mr. Jones so sad is that in the back of my mind I just assumed we’d be having adventures and sharing stories for another five decades. I just took for granted that life would flow along, and we’d have all the time in the world to hang out…and yet, of course, it has not simply flowed along…yet one also cannot live life as if the end is imminent – careers take place, one may live for five decades and thus need steady employment and retirement funds and to plan for that. So one tries to live in the present and appreciate it and yet also plan for the possibility of a long future – in practice, a balancing act that is fairly difficult to maintain.

So where am I now, as I sit here with Mr. Jones drinking coffee and chatting and looking forward to watching the US soccer game with him this afternoon. Trying to wallow in this time, right now, and experience my time with him and enjoy it and focus on it…

Not such profound insights, I know. But this isn’t a competition among posts, but rather it’s a chance to express how I feel about Mr. Jones, “the Experience,” and himself. Most significantly, my respect for Mr. Jones is increased beyond its normal high level – the grace and dignity with which he has dealt with this entire situation is inspiring, and I’m truly, deeply, grateful for every minute I have with him.