All Commentary
Tuesday, September 1, 1970

To a Friend

Mr. Demers is a vocational counselor in Veneta, Oregon.

Today I was running through the names of people I know—and knew—and was unhappy to find that I no longer have anyone with whom I can converse, except you. Actually, I never could talk with anyone the way I’ve talked with you, so I guess I haven’t the grounds for unhappiness that I thought I had.

This is not an attempt to flatter, praise, or what-have-you, merely stating things as they are. In so doing, I reinforce in my thoughts and considerations the truly la­mentable fact that, by and large, we are so obsessed with speed that we are by-passing the only true, productive aspects of living on this earth.

In the era before we were con­sumed with the glitter and tinsel of technology, we had time to place greater and truer emphasis upon the fruits to be harvested from quiet thought, meditation, and contemplation. The prologue for these exercises was always con­versation, discussion, and just plain talkin’. Nowadays, if it’s done at all, it’s “dialogue,” which is so much more appropriate to play-acting, make-believe, pre­tense, and sham.

Of course, we must observe that this word dialogue has been per­verted and prostituted like all else, for it was originally associated with writing: “Written composi­tion involving reasoning between two or more persons….” (Web­ster’s) One could anticipate more genuine and serious thought to be invested—or manifest—if what was to be presented had first to be written. And what does “to be written” imply? The investment of time, that precious element through which we pass one time only, and which we squander with such reckless abandon. Because we hurry, we trick ourselves into falsely believing that we’ve done more with time; but as my Grand­mother used to say: “You cannot spend tomorrow’s hours today, without someday having to catch up, and at that moment you find these hours have been lost to you forever.”

Once upon a time we realized that the only time we truly have is the here and the now, so we planned for tomorrow, realizing full well that it might never come. Now, one thing only is acceptable—to look forward to tomorrow, to the exclusion of the here-and-now and to the exclusion of all thought or consideration of one’s end, in toto, in time. We erroneously think we’re planning for tomorrow; but it is far from planning, it is rather anticipation and expectation, purely presumptive reactions, de­void of consideration and realistic preparation based upon genuine entitlement.

Our demands, our expectations, our “rights” have superseded our duties and responsibilities. Instead of taking and accepting graciously and appreciatively, we grasp and snatch greedily. Instead of dili­gently seeking with humility, we crow and blow with such a know-it-all attitude. Instead of reaching out and exercising that great, un­touched intellectual potential which is our blessed gift, we pre­fer rather to sit back and indulge and overindulge our extremely limited and restricted passions and bodily comforts in a repet­itive, animalistic way. Small wonder, then, that already we treat one another like beasts!

Can we honestly say, as a small minority lawlessly tears up com­munities physically and psycho­logically, with the majority refus­ing to do anything, that we are behaving much above a primitive animal level and are deserving of any other treatment than that ac­corded untamed beasts?

The animals of the pasture make an orderly contribution to our so­ciety, but they have no choice. We, people, you and I, we have a choice, though the choice is con­tingent upon our fulfilling a duty and a responsibility. What high and mighty Man forgets with amazing ease is that if the privi­lege and prerogative is not exer­cised, then man reverts to an even lower and more base form of be­havior than the animals of the field. There is an abundance of historical, concrete evidence to support this observation. Denial only emphasizes our own potential self-destruction.

You’ve been a perfect “listener.” Not one interruption!