Tuesday, February 07, 2012


"All roads lead to Trantor, and that is where all stars end." - Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation

One lesson from Stephen Covey is to begin with the end in mind.  From the start, mark point A as the beginning. and then mark point B as your terminus.  It should be that simple, from an intellectual point of view.  We define our journey, scope out the road getting there, and prepare ourselves accordingly.  The fun part, they say, is the journey, and not the destination.

There are lots of things to do on the journey - for while we must reach the other side, we must sustain ourselves throughout so that we keep ourselves hale and hearty on our travel.   There will be lots of things to see - wonders one has never seen, or sometimes the rare combination of having the usual mixed with the magical.

And of course, while we go through this journey, there are all sorts of distractions - whether from the vistas we see or the people we encounter.  Or sometimes we get waylaid at the stops we take - mostly by our own unreadiness or unwillingness to keep on moving.

So it is that some people make their way in life a lot more quickly and get to explore so many places - traveling the width and breadth of the human experience - while others stay where they, relatively close to where they started, hardly venturing beyond their comfort zones.

We all know where and how this journey will end someday, for all of us - in death.

Yesterday I watched as another employee of the company walked out the door, having been handed his separation papers.  He said I was the first guy for him to meet, and now I was the last that he will see to bid goodbye.

The beeline for people walking out the company is growing.  Some senior employees have been warned that their time was coming.  The signs were all coming out last October, when a senior-level employee was asked to gracefully retire.

I was there to witness the entire scene.  I knew it was coming because I had drafted the communication that ended his employment.  It's all business, yes, if it comes down to the final line of the equation, but as Michael Corleone said, the greatness that comes to great men is that they take all things personally.  It hurts because it matters.

I had always liked this man and he was something of a throwback to a kinder age where people were more valued for who they are as people instead of what they bring back to beef up the bottomline.  There it was, the ending to a relationship that shouldn't have begun.

Many people say to always view life in  a big picture sense.  Sure, it's true.  Right now that's how I deal with living alone, with no family and no wife so someone else's life may be lived.  This then, I must say, is the life of a parent.  Only, my two children are far older than I am...

But I digress, as I normally do.  Some people must forgive me.  The big-picture sense is that as one winds up a professional career, one can celebrate the accomplishments and the difficulties that made the journey all the more worthwhile.  The here and now, of course, is very different.  That gaping maw of hurt is right in the middle of your heart.  Probably the only good thing is that you see the knife flashing straight into you, as the blow is delivered in front of your eyes.

I've had that look on my face a number of times.  I am sure for whatever reason that happened, it was well deserved.  Life does pay you back as you deserve, one way or another.

Of course this isn't what anybody wants.  Nobody wants to be told you're not needed.  Did my colleague deserve this fate?  Maybe so, maybe so.  I remember the execution carried out by Eddard Stark in "Game of Thrones."  If a man must exercise his judgment and mete out justice, he should be man enough to be the one to administer it himself.

Firing somebody is not an execution, but it is always just if the decision-makers do the firing themselves.  Then maybe all the equations stop, and only the human equation counts.

* * * * *

This again begs the question - does it really matter how one's life ends, when all that is important is captured in the in-between?  In this current society, reality invades privacy all the time.  We are thrilled by it, we salivate over it.  A young actor is allegedly killed by his own blood kin, and then a seedy video of him having sex with his girlfriend circulates.  That's the new locker-room, water-cooler, neighborhood-store talk.  Government scandals abound, and yet it's the  pirated DVD collection of a certain government official that takes center stage (as if everyone else isn't into piracy, you hypocrites!).

Where is the rightness in all of this?  What ends do they come to, after all this bombardment of information?

Yesterday, the significance of life was again headlined by steady march of death.  Lives were lost in the wake of a major tremor in the central Philippines.  Lives are still being claimed by the cold weather in Europe.  And still, conflict rages all over the world.

Why is it that we need to be warned by the preciousness of life only by the moment of loss?  Or are we secretly hoarding these kind of moments, if only to prove that we are alive - in the numbing bewilderment of too much information we need hard edges on which to cling?

It's still a mystery.  Now that my life has dragged on to its current state, I can only be thankful that I am not in a morass.

* * * * *

The meaningfulness of the equation, then, of this entire journey, is not what we have done, but whom we have left behind.

Today, I thank the Lord for the life of Mr. Josue Ferriol, dead these past two years.  So much has happened since the time he has died, but the handprint he left on my being will last an entire lifetime.  We have been robbed of the time he could have spent with us, which makes the life he had lived all the more precious.  He will be gone, but he has already left a legacy.

Today, I thank the Lord once more for the life of my father, who, if he had been living today, would have celebrated 54 years of married life with my mother last Tuesday.  The music of my life that I am playing was something that he started, and if I should pass only to be compared to him favorably, I would consider that a major accomplishment.

Today, I thank the Lord that my sister celebrated her ---th birthday yesterday, and that throughout her difficulties she has found strength in her marriage and in her son.  I can only hope to be so lucky.

I can't pretend that I have gotten the most out of my journey.  I have been given a lot, and much has been expected of me, and until now I still feel like a colossal bust.  There are times, though, when I reflect on what I have done, and the uniqueness of my experiences, that it couldn't be possible for me to feel guilty had I not the self-awareness provided me by my particular situation.

And that, I will have to say, should be enough.  I will soldier on as best as I could, always glad that the end will never be in sight, because life is never meant to be thought of as endings, but in continuous beginnings.

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