What if I outlive my brother and sisters?
Would that scenario present me with the most daunting “Why?” to date of my entire intellectual life?
I can envision a variety of intellectual scenarios. Guilt, of course, would park its poisonous carcass in the big recliner in the living room in my head, grinning satisfactorily, as its presence has never been blunted at the door. I need a big burly bouncer up there to send that emotional Lucifer to the curb. Just once I’d like these town hall meetings to be guilt-free.
With this particular subject however, guilt will play, for once, an incidental role.
As much as I abhor the sense of entitlement that seems ingrained in the human condition, I genuinely think it would be ironic, almost apropos, was I to be the last Rayburn standing. Ironic in that I have expended (wasted?) much energy in not giving a shit whether I lived or died much of my life. Most wouldn’t associate the term ‘energy’ with my laissez-faire approach to death, but keeping hope at bay, resisting the visceral attraction to life’s potential for richness, has not been easy. It’s been a fight every step of the way.
Idealism vs. Cynicism
Much if this apparent effort to thwart the basic impulse to live life to its fullest is rooted in the potential consequences of swinging that door of possibilities wide open, forcing a confrontation between my battered yet unbowed ideals, and my ever burgeoning cynicism.
Those two warring factions of my brain fight it out all the time. Idealism vs. cynicism? Frazier – Ali IV? The victor of that war would eliminate many questions. And leave me exhausted.
"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes, but to get into accord with them;
they are legitimately what direct his conduct in the world."
-- Sigmund Freud
I have never sensed the prospect for accord between those two opponents that inhabit my ego. At times I still marvel at the surfacing of some ideal desire or incarnation, like an air-starved porpoise bursting through a calm sea, an ocean I thought hid only vicious, hungry skeptics beneath its serene veneer. I have battled all my life accusations of naïveté that many associate with idealism. Still I cling.
For example, I remain wedded (pun very much intended) to a sappy, romanticized, almost childlike concept of love, in spite of evidence of its utter failure in the form of two divorces dragging on my fish chain behind me. Still, cynicism has been unable to circumvent the protective barriers I raised around one of my last bastions of idealism; love.
The jarringly different angles from which I view men and women probably stems from my abject failure to get my father to love me. By falling short of that goal, I have mostly written off half of the earth’s population as a viable source for much of anything, and hence piled way too much responsibility at the doorstep of women. And when they have not filled that void, the emptiness is cavernous; a yawning, gaping chasm that runs fathoms deep. An endless tumbling of the soul down the ethereal black hole all thinkers fear most.
Simply put, the id is who we are, the ego is who we want to be, and the superego is the tempering force between them.
I was tempted to title this piece ‘Why If?’, but that clearly jumps the shark of my dying first. I’ve invested many torturous miles of existential wrangling, vainly attempting to put the Jackson Pollock-like style of Rayburn family life into some perspective, as we splattered the canvas of life with our simple yet convoluted life stories. Determining which of us lead a life of color or who, more starkly, waded through life in black and white. Giving us a historical hook, or just defining us today.
At present, from my perch, the overview of my family shows it just sitting there like a lump of clay; forlorn, needing water, and begging for a warm pair of hands to mold it into something sensible, logical, or even tragic. Something, anything to hang my hat on.
So, why would it be ‘apropos’ for me to finish the race last, to gather over the collective souls of my family and figure out what truly mattered? To pick and choose what I sense are the ripe fruits from each of our trees? To try and give credence, gravitas, and even some humorous flavor; to make some sense of it all?
Because I sense pretty strongly no need or desire from my siblings to find a hook for their hat. A final intellectual resting place where their lifelines and experiences are folded neatly, after fluffing, and laid peacefully to rest, conflicts and all. The dresser drawer of eternity being our final resting place. Sounds better than “coffin” or “urn”, doesn’t it?
I need that. Even if not possible as an intellectual destination, the pursuit of it is what revs my engine. Of course, if I arrive at a suitable “why” premise for the Rayburn family, it will be my premise, not the overarching rainbow of answers with a beginning, middle and an end to solve all the riddles, mysteries and conundrums that fill any human life, let alone our infinitesimally small dot the Rayburn’s have planted on the historical schematic of mankind.
I am preparing as though it could happen, me standing alone, summing things up. Anticipating the inverse gets me nowhere.
I see myself on a quiet mountaintop, surrounded by peaceful deer quietly gnawing at shrubs. Nature is flowering at its finest, early spring. Squirrels play their squirrel games, in between hunting for nuts; birds soar, seeing it all, their perspective one I have tried to mirror most of my life.
I begin my summation with “Maybe…”
I end it with “Maybe not…”
© Copyright 2016 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.