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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Week of May 31, 2015

This week always stirs me a bit.  It takes me back to a yesterday...hmm...I guess about fifteen years ago now.  Gees.  Time flies.


Burnt into all that qualifies as the sentimentality of one's high school senior year and this week of baccalaureate services and commencement exercises must somehow still linger, for I remember a man and three poems without fail, year after year--fifteen times now, I guess.  The man: Principal Dr. Casebolt.  He was tough as nails but had a heart as big as "The Palace," (the nickname given our high school by rivals since it was the newest in the county in the last 30 years).  I can still feel the cool, comfortable, low-lit auditorium where we had assembled many times in the previous four years.  Just the very edges of his profile seemed to protrude from the focused light.  The frames rested on his face almost unnoticed, yet as sure as a Roman breastplate.  This day, though, the edges of his persona seemed direct but rounded--more wholly, smooth.  There was definitely something holy in Dr. Casebolt's trinity of canonized muses.  Not one in and of itself but all three together would set us all on our course, if only we were astute enough to heed the call to go, holding high the torch and taking our jars to polish the stars.

The first ghost of graduation past visits me in Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go.  Back then, I couldn't hear Dr. C's use of Dr. Seuss' warning of the "except when you don't" and the "except when they don't."  What eighteen-year-old knows of "waiting places"?  However, the message was clear: life is a gift to be lived.  Ups and downs are the way, precisely where the living happens!  "So...be your name Bauxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allan O'Shea," everyone goes on their way.  How would we go?

The second, maybe a ghost of graduation present, is an anonymous poem; but, I can only hear the clear, deep, abdominal voice of my principal when I read it:

Hold High The Torch!
You did not light its glow–
‘Twas given you by other hands, you know.
‘Tis yours to keep it burning bright,
Yours to pass on when you no more need light;
For there are other feet that we must guide,
And other forms go marching by our side;
Their eyes are watching every smile and tear
And efforts which we think are not worthwhile,
Are sometimes just the very helps they need,
Actions to which their souls would give most heed;
So that in turn they’ll hold it high
And say, “I watched someone else carry it this way.”
If brighter paths should beckon you to choose,
Would your small gain compare with all you’d lose?
Hold high the torch!
You did not light its glow–
‘Twas given you by other hands, you know.
I think it started down its pathway bright,
The day the Maker said: “Let there be light.”
And He once said, who hung on Calvary’s tree–
“Ye are the light of the world.”… Go!… Shine–for me.

Here's another poem about going on the way, but this time with a reminder: we go a momentous way by the momentum of others.  We are here now because others were there then.  Dr. Seuss's string of names at story's end was anything but serendipitous.  It was "Mordecai" (Esther 4.13-17) who persuaded Esther with the sublime ("Ali"), dauntless ("O'Shea") idea that "such a time as this"--God's graceful ("Van") moment--just might be her moment, too.  Esther's response is the mantra of all brave souls facing the ups and downs of the way: "And if I perish, I perish."

The ghost of graduation future has a most haunting herald.  No one knew living the ups and downs of the way like Shel Silverstein, losing his first wife before his daughter's fifth birthday--the daughter who would die of a cerebral aneurysm at age eleven.

With our futures awaiting, Principal Dr. C was right to remind us that "somebody has to."  Somebody just has to.  Even the most-distant needs a good polishing--an old fashioned snap, slip, pop and some elbow grease.  There's nothing out there just sitting.  The "waiting place" will never be the true reward.  The value of what's out there is determined by "such a time as this."  This moment was never a handout but, rather, a HAND-OFF.  Silverstein knew this intimately.  He knew the fear of loneliness and things so scary "you won't want to go on"; yet, the "98 and 3/4 percent guarantee" was enough for him to "get on [his] way."    

So...  I guess I wake in the present, no longer an eighteen-year-old "mind-maker-upper" under the "KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS" spell.  Now I'm thirty-five years old.  I've soared...some.  I've waited...some.  I've slumped...some.  What remains? The up-and-down way.  I "hold high [that] torch" because "'Twas given [me] by other hands, [I] know."  Amateur, prime, or old, the truth will always hold--precisely here and now--that "somebody has to."  Somebody just has to because of all the other forms: "Their eyes are watching every smile and tear."

It just might be that we are their stars. 

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