I was born on July 4th, 1948. I wrote a diary about this yesterday, and I suppose that writing was what prompted me to continue to mix my own life and history from here in rural North Carolina.
Like any old guy my age I enjoy telling stories. My kids have heard all of them and roll their eyes at me when I start in on one they've heard. It doesn't hurt my feelings. Shit, my sons are young and--as seems to be common today--void of all patience. I guess I can understand that. In a culture where you can obtain pretty much whatever you want as fast as you want it--if you can pay that is--patience doesn't seem as much a virtue as a frivolous practice.
We lived out in the country. While his neigbors were content with chimneys and wood-furnaces for heat, my dad fought to get Rutheford Electric--a rural co-op power company--up to our place. Dad came from "old south" money, and after WWII his dad died and left him with the hundred-and-fifty-three acres of woods and plot by which his two-story home was surrounded. That house has been in our family for four generations now. My great-great-grandfather bought the place after the civil war was over and he died in the master bedroom of fever. In any case, in an extraordinary display of patience, dad wrote letter after letter to REA requesting service. He showed up frequently at their offices, and was rewarded with electric lights and heat. We were the first house to recieve electric power in our area.
Now, I remember a lot about being a kid.I don't think I ever remember being bored. I hiked in the woods. I played a lot of baseball. I made fake guns out of sticks shaped like pistols and shot at my brother while making stupid shooting sounds. When I was old enough I began to hunt. I began to fish. As a teenager hunting and fishing were like an addiction. Both take a massive degree of patience. You have to be still. You have to listen. You have to focus and pay attention to everything around you.
I was good at those things because I was raised with a degree of patience with which most of society is lacking. My sons were bored fishing and soon resorted to fidgeting and complaining. Even when they were older I could never get them out on the water. "Dad," my youngest told me, "fishing isn't relaxing or whatever you think it is, man. It's, like, the most boring shit on the planet. Plus what the hell am I going to do with a fuckin' fish?"
He had a point. Whenever I fished as a teenager I didn't release the fish, as I taught my kids to do. Sometimes I did, but most times I took my catch home for dinner. It was always the same with deer. I will never kill an animal and leave it to rot, or stuff it's head like a trophy. I always found that practice vulgar in some way. Most of the time that I hunted I would also use a bow instead of my .30-ought-six or my .22. Nothing against guns--although I don't have any today--but I was always put off by the sound. A bow has a much more subtle, earthly sound.
The boys didn't take to hunting, either. Although my oldest can shoot as well as anybody I've known. It wasn't that they had a moral objection. They just told me that they were bored and didn't want to stay in any one place that long.
Society as a whole seems like that now. It seems like nobody can stay in one place more than thirty seconds before they're off again, to some other place or space or moment. Patience and understanding seem to have taken a back seat to "Why hasn't this been done yet? This should've been done WEEKS ago!" and "Why am I still here? Shouldn't I be gone by now?"
This hit me all at once the other day when I was ordering fast food with my son. We were in a long drive-through line and his legs were pumping up and down like angry pistons. "What is that jackass doing?" he said under his breath, "Ordering every damned thing on the menu?"
I noticed then that my sons were both similar in their inability to be patient when it comes to anything. A wait is simply, to them, moments of dead air when they were between moments.
I also have noticed that, as a society, we've become that way as well. We expect so much to be done all at once to fix all our problems that we forget that the very nature of life is incremental. From the wondrous effects of evolution to the stages of life to the very impulses that direct us to act without thinking or to demand too much of ourselves or our society.
This latter statement is not to say that fights never need be waged. Fights that are just, my good kossacks, will always have those willing to enter the fray. Yet even political battles necessitate degrees of patience and understanding.