Our differing beliefs about heaven, or hell, or the afterlife may well turn out to be irrelevant. But the ephemeral concrete of our lives is built on moments. And each moment is the result of the sum of all actions and experiences which existed before it. That sum is our life.
We can never, therefore, lose our connection to our past because we are our past. We are the past that exists in the present. It follows that the now is our contribution to the past and, therefore, our contribution to ourselves.
My father was part of the building blocks of me. Although painful, I find value in sometimes deliberately acknowledging his departure. In a time when everything in our society drives us to and manipulates us into charging forward toward 'success' and sacrificing for 'achievement,' it may be more valuable for our sense of humanity to adjust the pace of our lives enough to remember that all of our pasts are, in fact, one past. Since every single human being alive can say that they've lost someone into this common space of the past, we all have one thing in common that is much more important than our DNA: we're all on the same journey. A journey on which we've been both propelled and sustained by our collective past.
My father's life taught me that a meaningful and 'successful' existence can be simple and it can be peaceful. "Be honest. Don't judge. Contribute." I strive for that every day, despite the pressure of a society in which being honest doesn't always seem to pay off. In which judging and labeling others seems the only path to our own validation, as prescribed by a barrage of commercial and political interests. A society in which we really no longer know to what or to whom all of our daily work actually contributes.
But I will continue to fight these pressures. It is the most important fight in our society today. To lose it or, worse yet, to not fight it at all is to surrender the meaning and purpose of your present to, at best, misguided forces, thereby poisoning our collective past, ... poisoning yourself.
Be honest. Don't judge. Contribute.
R.I.P. dad. October 19, 2005.