I’m not seventy yet, but I’m inching my way. As of two years ago, I became the oldest male in six generations on my father’s side. They all died before age fifty-one, owing to bad hearts. I most definitely thought I’d join that group, but here I am. I thought I’d never reach the age where the orthopedic problems on my maternal side would hit, but by the time this is printed, I’ll be on the other side of a total knee replacement.
All the contacts I’ll refer to in this column have either been reborn or strengthened just this summer. It’s risky to write about people, because the list could be exhaustive and I’d still be leaving people out. I also diligently try to keep people anonymous as far as names go, but if you’re in this column, you just might recognize yourself. Only a couple of these people could be called famous, though they inhabit my personal Hall of Fame.
I ask myself as I compose this column, “Where does Buddhist practice fit here over simple praise of friends?” Then I realize clearly that one of the principle ideas of Buddhism is the interdependence of all things. And that fundamental cornerstone is clearly where I’m coming from.
I would normally avoid Facebook because it’s too trendy. But I’ve found that it’s valuable for older people because it allows, and in fact directs contacts with people not seen in years. Facebook has allowed me to post my connections and write snippets about my beliefs and observations on world matters. It’s also provided connections with some former students, one living and propagating a family in Israel. It’s also helped me connect with people from California to Maine and all the way to Hawaii. I’ve been able to stay in touch with my first true love, who’s been living in Texas for many years. And many of these connections are actually nearby, but people with whom I’d lost touch over the years even though they are near. Of course, it and email are means for folks to contact me as The Buddhist Adviser.
Among the people I have kept in touch with over the years is a fellow who’s still performing and supporting music. He’d reached some pretty high pinnacles, and wrote a song that was performed at the Super Bowl some years back. In his 60’s, he’s still rockin,’ doing the music he’s been so passionate about and supporting musicians of all ages from all over the world.
The other day, ironically at a low point in my emotions, I received an unexpected call from a Zen Master, the abbot of the order in which I was ordained over ten years ago.
I’d lost touch with him after I’d ceased to sit in meditative practice with the order he leads. In the perfect spirit of a Zen Master, he’d never once called me or really initiated contact. But here, in this summer of friends, he called, telling me he’s been moved by this column and discussing plans he has with a new program he was about to lead hereabouts.
And then there is the fellow, now in his mid-forties, who has struggled with mental health issues his entire life. I was his mentor when he was in high school. He was a writer then, and he shared his writing in public engagements with literally hundreds of people in public readings after he’d graduated. I had a spontaneous reconnect with him at my medical clinic, and now we go out to dinner as I am able.
I seem to have known quite a few people named David or Dave. I’ve written about one of them many times in this column because I talk to him regularly. But there is another Dave, a guy I spent a lot of time with in the 1960’s and 70’s. I realize now I took his friendship for granted. We’d gone in vastly different directions as we moved into adulthood. He’s Jewish, and I was raised Catholic and still practice Catholicism, but actually, we’d rarely spoken of our respective religious upbringings. He wasn’t Orthodox, but now, communicating with him, as we’re both interested in history, I know we should have spoken long and deeply about spiritual matters as we aged. Lately, we’ve exchanged our thoughts about World War II, and I am thankful we‘ve taken the time to do this before we die.
On a morning last week, a small rental car pulled up in front of my house. As the driver exited the vehicle and moved toward my door, I was reminded I was about to spend the day with a man I view as a true living saint. This is a man who changed from a tough “greaser” to a true spiritual seeker. We traveled the country, mostly with our thumbs out on highways. We saw Jefferson Airplane on their first tour, and went to some of those famous rock festivals. This guy and I traveled virtually the entire western United States, mostly hitchhiking. We shared jail cells in other states. We were reckless and fearless, and I wouldn’t trade the experience of our travels for anything. As we sat that day, he told me how I was among the most profoundly influential people in his life. This humbled me a great deal, the words settling upon me, and caused some joyful quiet times for thinking about his praise when he’d left.
And as I sat writing this, the mail carrier came. Among the pieces of mail was a large envelope from the aforementioned first true love, who, she wrote, had been cleaning her house. She sent along to me a stack of memorabilia from my senior year in high school, including the graduation program and a poem I had published in the local paper that year. Such amazing “coincidences” again convince me of the merry trickster this universe can be. Such perfect timing.
I hesitated to write this piece. Why would I choose such a topic? Was it nothing more than cheap self-aggrandizing? No, it was not that. It offered me a chance to pay tribute and show respect to a few of the people who touched me over the years.
So I offer respect and praise for some of the many people I’ve known, loved, and occasionally lost touch with. I celebrate you, and I hope I can make just a few more connections while still in this body.
John Price-Kabhir is a retired public school educator and an ordained Buddhist householder. He can be reached at Shiningcrow11@yahoo.com.