Friday, August 27, 2010

Ripples In The Stream

I was jazzed by the news I saw on the Backstreets website yesterday regarding the pending re-issue of my favorite Springsteen album. On November 16, 2010 Darkness on the Edge of Town shall be re-issued and it shall be done in what can fairly be described as grand fashion. Every Springsteen fan has his or her favorite Springsteen album. This one happens to be mine. It contains my favorite Springsteen song, the title of which I have rather deftly co-opted for my own purposes in this space.

Even more than the news about the re-issue of Darkness, my day yesterday was brightened quite a bit by some words of strangers. I forget sometimes that anyone other than several members of my immediate family and a few friends actually reads what gets written in this space. I regret to admit that I am self-absorbed enough to confess that the person for whose benefit I do what I do here is the rapidly-aging gent with the wrinkles 'round his eyes and the graying whiskers on his chin who I see up close and personal in the bathroom mirror every morning. Perhaps if I did not drag my reflection's ass out of bed two hours-plus before dawn contemplates its daily cracking, it would treat me better. I know not. And I suspect that I shall never know.

It sounds totally absurd to say this but this exercise's purpose is not to serve as the foundation of an ever-expanding empire of self-congratulation. Rather, I write daily much for the same reason as I run. Each is an exercise in self-discipline. Each is an exercise that brings serenity and a level of calm to me. I know not whether the right word to describe it is "soothing" because among my many not-too-strong suits is language (running interestingly enough is yet another of my not-so-strong suits and it will be on display twice this weekend - Long Branch on Saturday and Cranford on Sunday) but I believe it fits the bill.

Yesterday I was reminded about connectivity. I was reminded that as we paddle upstream in our little canoes, the water displaced beneath our paddles causes a ripple along the water's surface. While we do not see everywhere those ripples go, they do indeed go somewhere. The change they have on the water's surface - whether subtle or something decidedly more so - impacts those who are elsewhere in the stream paddling their own canoe.

Last Sunday a young man died who I did not know. The circumstances surrounding his death are tragic and the fact that at age 30 he has been forever separated from his young bride and their 1 year-old baby girl is.....(well it is whatever Roget lists in his Thesaurus as the word meaning "tragic beyond the pale"). In this space on Tuesday I wrote about him and the admittedly superficial knowledge I had been able to glean from his life through the two or three articles I had read on-line. He was a young man I never met. Part of a family I do not know. Yet, perhaps unrealistically, I did not feel as if knowing him was a prerequisite to writing about how learning about him for the first time after his death caused me to feel.

For a man whose friends and colleagues described him as a "beanpole" he certainly carried a lot of weight and heft. I had the pleasure and privilege yesterday of reading comments that several people, including those who apparently knew him very well, posted here in response to what I had written here on Tuesday. I wrote what I wrote not knowing that they were out there. They, whether looking for information on a long-lost friend or for information on a story they had read on-line or in a newspaper, searched not knowing that I was out here. Their search and my silliness met. A point of intersection in the stream - if you will - for us canoeists.

While the comments of others that I read were universally extraordinary, the one that I found the most striking was one from someone who - like me - did not know the young man personally but whose home yesterday was among those that served as the route for the funeral procession. I know not whether the person who wrote it is a Mom or a Dad but gender matters not at all. It is a sentiment whose power rings through regardless:

Anonymous said...

His procession passed my driveway this morning. I was stunned at the line up of police and emergency vehicles from different towns, along with fire trucks that i had witnessed. My children asked me what was happening..i responded with "I know its a funeral, and I'm guessing he was from Westfield area, and I'm very sure that this person must have been a very very highly decorated police officer or fireman who was very well respected and loved.' We followed the procession to St. James Church, my church, in tears. Emotional by the outpour of respect I saw he received on his way to his funeral.I told my kids, "See? thats the way you want to go to heaven" my daughter asked me how? I told her it was all about making your mark in this world, being a good person, touching others' lives, leaving a good 'mark' others will remember. it was soo beautiful to watch at this very sad time..but i just knew this person was special and I didnt even know him. May he rest in peace, he is with Jesus now.

Anyone who knows me - or anyone who has happened by this particular piece of real estate - knows I am not a religious man. As a general rule, God and I maintain a safe working distance from one another. My own personal bent notwithstanding, I was struck by the beauty of the words and the ability to convey - at that moment - the message that was conveyed from parent to child. Beautiful, remarkable stuff.

After I read what had been written - and then read it a second time and then a third - I thought again about why Darkness is my favorite Springsteen album. For me - and if my oldest brother who knows more about Springsteen than Clarence for crying out loud tells me I am wrong than maybe I will have to rethink my position - Darkness is not only a great collection of music but it is a collection of music that showcases just how much Springsteen's life had changed and how much he had grown up in the three years since Born To Run. The tone of the album is much darker, the tenor of the lyrics throughout is as well, than that of Born To Run.

Yet the characters on Darkness are not folks without hope. They have been kicked hard in the face by life - to be sure - but even in their darkest hour they have their faith. And in the admittedly bizarre manner in which the mousetrap inside of my skullcap processes information, I thought yesterday how the message in that music never seemed more appropriate than it did yesterday.

Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground.

Based upon what I read and what I saw yesterday, there is more than an adequate supply of faith among those who knew, those who loved and those - like me - who merely marveled at the life this young man lived - to ensure that those he loved are now and shall remain twister-proof (kudos to the men and women of the FMBA who -as reported here - yesterday established a scholarship fund for Fireman Pfeiffer's baby daughter). Buoyed by the strength of countless ripples in the stream - the point of origin of each is different - but whose destination is the same.

-AK

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