You Can't Choose Your Family
But what if you could? Now. After half a lifetime with your unchosen family.
Would you make wholesale changes? Would your next family reunion look like the last two minutes of a basketball game with a 25 point deficit, as you usher in replacements just before dessert?
Of course, many people would like to make some substitutions up and down the family tree. But no one, for the most part, does it.
But if you could in your mind, just for one fantasy-filled evening, would you?
I had 2 brothers and 3 sisters. I currently have 1 brother and 2 sisters.
They remain a swarm of stinger-less bees; on paper harmless, but in reality capable of more destructive damage than Mike Tyson on his 5th Vodka tonic trying to pick up a stripper.
Inflicting damage as much by their INaction as by their actions, they lie inert where legitimate thought and analysis are begged for, but will blunder in through the ubiquitous swinging saloon doors with flabby, weightless opinions on anything without gravitas, especially on how OTHERS should behave.
It has always amused me that the people with the most answers don't have a fucking clue as to what the question is. Beyond irony.
Who would be my utility players off the bench? Who would I give that familiar, over the shoulder arm wave to; who would I summon from the bullpen of the history of man or woman to save the game? That is fun to even type those words. Like getting the opportunity to list (possess?) your favorite books, movies or athletes.
This question reminds me of a great bar discussion starter. "If you could have a drink or 3 with anybody who has ever lived or died, who would it be?"
Let's limit it to five, which immediately rings as impossible to my hungry ears. But not unlike with my family, I will accept these limitations.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. For two very obvious reasons; two quotes, actually:
"If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own."
- Emerson's evisceration of hypocrisy. Though rooted in pragmatism, this quote has some deliciously contradictory strains of thought. Idealism tempered with reality; the conscious choice of a potentially isolated life versus one surrounded by superficiality. And the simple refusal to dislodge oneself from their individual truths.
"Though you may travel the world to find the beautiful, you must have it within you or you will find it not."
- Inner Beauty…fleshed out, you can change your zip code, pack your bags and flee when the going gets tough, but every single piece of dirty laundry will follow you…it's not where you live, it's HOW you live.
If either needs further explaining or interpretation, then there ain't no seat at my Al "CONK!" uin round table for you, my brother.
Winston Churchill. Simply because I would like to ask him the following: "Where, in your opinion, did it all start to go wrong?"
And of course, who wouldn't want to pose that same query to God himself, right?
Except God doesn't EXIST!
(I crack myself up, sue me)
Bill Russell. Simply because after we exhausted talking about one of my favorite subjects, Sports, he could easily segue to more existential, cerebral and esoteric material with nary a hitch in his intellectual giddyup
Dorothy Parker: Hell, somebody's got to pay for drinks. And her sarcastic, misanthropic takes on life, people, and the inherent vagaries associated with both? Priceless.
Ernest Hemingway. And somebody has to drink those drinks, right? I am more an admirer of the way he lived his life to the fullest, then his often awkward, stunted, almost stultifying prose. For how to squeeze every last drop of good Havana rum out of life, Ernest is my guy.
That's five. And of course, thirty more names sprung to mind while listing those five. I like my cross-section, my variety. A philosopher; a politician; the single most decorated athlete in the history of sports and also the only black at the table (he should be used to that); an avowed cynic with a rapier wit (and the only woman); and the most influential American writer of his lifetime, and possibly ever.
Those five would consist of my fantasy family. Of course it is inherently unfair to assess my family when compared to some of the greatest minds of the past couple of hundred years. Hell, I couldn't measure up, either.
That doesn't keep me from fantasizing.
But just like dealing with family is often a lesson in frustration and disappointment. To dream of a Happy Hour with these five is equal in pain, because agonizing over what you have is no different than longing for what you don't have.