This morning I awoke and ventured over to my poet friend Poet Rhythm’s site, SisterGarten, where she has composed a wonderful piece dealing with musical artists and artistic evolution entitled “In the Shadows of Our Younger Selves.”
And even as I was finishing my comment on the post, the phone rang, and on the line was a cousin from home calling to see if I would be coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. As I spoke to him, a line from Poet Rhythm’s post suddenly came to mind—“Evolution is beautiful by nature”.
As a young person, everyone has that favorite cousin, that cousin a few years older than you that you completely idolize, that you follow doggedly behind and try to emulate in all things. Well for me, that cousin who phoned this morning is that cousin.
When we were children and young men, we were so close that when someone saw one of us, they naturally looked around for the other. However, as adults there is a certain distance between us, both literally and figuratively.
At one time after I left home, we spoke on the phone frequently, at least once a week. Then the frequency slowed to once every few weeks. Then, we spoke only every few months or so. Now we usually only speak when I drop into town.
And it’s not that my affection for my cousin has lessened in any way. I wish that we could speak more. I really wish that we could find more occasions to laugh together, to enjoy each other’s company. But now our conversations have ceased to be unique; each is an exact facsimile of the rest. The main topics he wishes to discuss are women, cars, and weed,and in that exact order.
Additionally, he still lives with his mother. He has several children by several different women which I suspect he doesn’t support because he only works enough to take care of his car, the only thing he owns. The attention he gives that car baffles me.
He is the same person I idolized as a young man, that I sought to emulate. And that is the problem.
I know so many people, and I meet so many people who seem unwilling or unable to change, to evolve. They are the same people today that they were last year. And the year before. And the year before that.
And I hear these people complaining, bemoaning the fact that they seem to find themselves in a rut, wishing that somehow, someway, something different, something spectacular, something dynamic occurs in their lives to make their lives better, but when you suggest that they might want to change a few things, they balk at the notion. Perhaps the familiar, even if it is inimical to their happiness, to their self-fulfillment, is more desirable than the unfamiliar as suggested by change.
But I believe change to be necessary. I see change as inevitable. In fact, to not change or evolve is unnatural. If you are the same person right now that you were last week, or last month, or last year, or five or ten years ago, something is wrong. To change, to embrace change, to embrace evolution is naturally beautiful.
To be able to stand back and take account of yourself, to be able to honestly assess and admit your faults and shortcomings, is a necessary part of change, of evolution, and is truly a revolutionary act. Most of us would rather close our eyes to the worst parts of ourselves and remain stagnant rather than evolve into the best person that we can possibly be.
But back to my cousin. I last saw him this past summer. In the cool of the evening, we sat under a shade tree in his mother’s front yard just as did as young people. We talked, we laughed, and we teased one another just as we did as young people.
And at some point in the evening we decided to walk to the corner grocery just as we had as young people. To my surprise, the corner grocery had not changed all that much since I had last been there about twenty years ago, except then it was owned by a Jewish family, and now it is owned by a Palestinian family.
When we returned from the store, he uncapped his quart of Colt 45 malt liquor, poured out just a bit for the brothers no longer with us, tilted the bottle to his lips, and took a long, deep swig. He then held the bottle in my direction just as he would have when we were young people. But at that moment I hesitated for just a moment before finally accepting the bottle and taking my turn.
When I gave the bottle back, he looked at me for a long second. And as he examined my face, I suddenly felt ashamed. I felt out of place. Suddenly this familiar front yard of this familiar house is this familiar neighborhood felt so strange, so foreign.
“You’ve changed,” he finally told me as he gazed at some unidentifiable point across the street. And as I struggled to come up with a rebuttal, as I struggled to come up with a reasonable argument to defend myself, he let me know that it didn’t matter. That he was proud of my change. He was proud of the man I had become. That he wished he too could change, but he simply did not know how.