Saturday, July 7, 2012

Let Me Ride

Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Let me take my chances on the Wall of Death

- Richard Thompson, Wall of Death

* * *

A good and kind man died the other day. He'd been desperately sick, was getting sicker - pain, the shame of his body betraying him, a burden on those closest to him to tend to his most elementary needs, and so he tossed a rope over a tree branch and saved them the trouble of watching him die slowly. Maybe it was a kindness he offered them. Maybe it was despair. Maybe it was both. No one will know. It will all be conjecture colored by the experience and beliefs of those left to riddle out this good and kind man's last act.

For me, I will miss him. Kindness is far too rare a trait, as is goodness and patience and selflessness. This good and kind man lived a life of service to others, of walking among the lowest, the untouchables in our society and celebrating the gifts of those who dared to follow their talents. I will miss him. Maybe it was the weight of selflessness, the weight of all that service that bore down on him at the end causing him to believe he was unworthy of the same kindness and patience he'd given others. He knew only to tend, not be tended.

Who knows?

A good and kind man died almost 20 years ago. He'd been desperately sick, was getting sicker - pain, the shame of his body betraying him, a burden on those closest to him to tend to his most elementary needs, and he looked me in the eye knowing he was dying, knowing the pain would ratchet up as the days ran out, and said,"I'll kick it along as far as I can for you." This was my father's greatest kindness, his last act of selflessness, his last gift to me: the willingness to walk through the teeth of the Reaper's grin. It scared him at first, but he bulldogged his way past that and rolled on until the night my brother and I sat with him listening to his last breaths - two sons bereft of their father able to love him to the last.

I miss him still. Kindness is far too rare a trait, as is goodness and patience and selflessness. He was a good and kind and sad man who lived a stumbling life burdened by poor choices in love and money. His work was a job you wouldn't wish on an enemy: low, untouchable, unspeakable. Maybe it was the weight of his regrets, the weight of all the things who couldn't make come right that lifted him up at the end and set his feet on the road he chose to walk, causing him to believe "At least I can do this much."

Who knows?

But this is the only way I can understand the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

* * *

You can go with the crazy people in the Crooked House
You can fly away on the Rocket or spin in the Mouse
The Tunnel Of Love might amuse you
Noah's Ark might confuse you
But let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death


* * *

It started in the US: an Indian motorcycle at the bottom of a large wooden barrel and the rider would slowly build speed riding in circles at the bottom, slowly rising up the sides until he was riding perpendicular to the side of the barrel, the audience peering in over the top: the Wall of Death and the gift of momentum and gravity.

Is there a more apt analogy for our time on this earth than a daredevil in a barrel defying expectations? It is all a function of having the willingness to find another gear, to coax a bit more speed out of the machine and in so doing finding freedom, flow, the perfect state of momentum and gravity.

In what state is your momentum and gravity?

Where is your speed? Where your glue?

Gravity is inexorable. It always wins no matter what, but it is also part of the equation, the thing pushed against in order to rise above. There is no speed without it. At the end, when there is no speed left, when the tank is empty all you'll have is the momentum of your life to guide you. My father found a gear he didn't know he had. It was not speed he aimed for, but a lower gear in order to have the traction necessary to kick it along as far as it could go. The other good and kind man put a rope around his neck when he believed there wasn't a gear to be found.

Now listen to me: THERE IS ALWAYS A GEAR TO BE FOUND. IT IS YOUR SOLE PURPOSE TO FIND IT.

* * *

Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Let me take my chances on the Wall of Death

* * *

Boom, goddamnit.
__________

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