You’re always giving, my therapist said. You have to learn how to take. Whenever you meet a woman, the first thing you do is lend her your books. You think she’ll have to see you again in order to return them. But what happens is, she doesn’t have the time to read them, & she’s afraid if she sees you again you’ll expect her to talk about them, & will want to lend her even more. So she cancels the date. You end up losing a lot of books. You should borrow hers.
How do you look back on a whole lifetime of books and not think about the many friends you let down? You borrowed and didn’t return, you gave and they vanished. Should there be a tabulation of friendship casualties, killed in action, missing in action, wounded?
Were you to live three thousand years, or even countless multitudes of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can one be deprived of what’s not theirs?
The North Fork of the Flathead River Valley could care less about five middle-aged men shooting shotguns and clay pigeons for three hours on the first gray and white day of 2019. Those mountains remain tonight, silent and cold, clouds keeping their ridges hidden. They have survived hellish winters, sweltering summers, wind, snow, and fire have scarred the long memory of this place. We are a second long flutter of a bird’s wing in the history of those ancient mountains and rivers.
We must claim our days. Even if all we build in our lifetimes will be forgotten in one generation. We must claim our days with meaning and connection.
The world we live in is a divided, broken and shallow land. It is now undeniable that depression and loneliness are on the rise, in all age groups. According to data from the General Social Survey (GSS), the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. “Zero” is also the most common response when people are asked how many confidants they have, the GSS data show. And adult men seem to be especially bad at keeping and cultivating friendships.
As Ryan Holiday explains in The Obstacle is the Way, there are eight things we can control; emotion, judgment, creativity, desire, decision, attitude, perception, and determination. And so in 2019, let us desire to be making the connections we need to. Let us make the decisions to reach out and not hide behind screens. We can be determined to claim our days with the perceptions that keep us open to new people and determined to maintain those old friendships. Let us be cautious about opinions and judgments that close ourselves off to others.
No monuments will be built to us. The North Fork Valley of the Flathead will little remember today from the other millions of years that have shaped it. We must claim the days we have before they are gone.