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Monday, May 05, 2008

Jackson, Zen, And A Long Drive In One Weekend

Things change and sometimes it can be felt below the belt even if it is a good thing. I took Emily to Nashville for her Lasik enhancement this weekend. It was our plan to visit some sites up that way after her day of darkness. We altered that plan a bit by going to my old high school after we visited The Hermitage.

It was a unusual school in that it was round. The gym was in the middle and two floors of classrooms were built around it. Our assistant principle married one of our teachers during my time there, which I think is kind of out of the ordinary. I remember sitting in Economics class with a teacher that not only was teaching a boring subject, but was a boring person himself adding to the tendency to fall a sleep. Only on the days when the band would practice marching around the building playing “Up Up and Away” (5th Dimensions) over and over again would my sleep be interrupted. The standing joke around the school was “old dogs walked themselves to death looking for a corner to piss in.”

It was really Emily’s idea to revisit my old school. For some reason she wants to see my past. I can’t imagine why. After this trip, I’m not sure I ever want to revisit my past. It was a “Zen” moment to say the least. First the little round school (with it’s lovely stand of old oaks) over the inlet and out in the country east of the town proper of Hendersonville was now a Middle School in a business district with a grassy soccer field in front and the only thing round was the roof over the gym since they added to the building expanding it out into the old student parking lot. The new high school was now to the west of the athletic field which was behind my old school. I wasn’t into athletics (I was and still am an explorer) so the football field doesn’t hold any nostalgic value for me. However, looking into the glass doorway of my old school did bring back memories. Like most schools it has the admin offices located by the front door, but looking down to the curved hallway is what did it for me. I walked that circle many times.

The idea that my old high school isn't good enough for the current generation was disconcerting. I guess I just never felt obsolescence so strongly before. I know things have to advance, but I couldn’t help but think that there was an arrogance of modality at play here. That is to say, the current generation of parents needed a new more modern facility for their offspring to highlight there change to a modern little city over the once sleepy little community in the country it use to be. I felt no connection with the town. It is an ugly little shopping spot with a park on its part of Old Hickory Lake.

My old house and neighborhood was a joy to see. I use to walk out the back of the school and past the athletic field into a meadow where I would often scare nesting birds off their nest in the spring time. I enjoyed knowing the signs of such things. As a Boy Scout, I knew that when a bird faked a broken wing it was trying to lead me away from the nest. It was cool knowing that back then. There are some of us who don’t see life as one competition after another, but rather a wonderful place to explore and learn about and from. My neighborhood was just past that meadow and in those days it had nice brick houses but not much in the way of landscaping. Today it still has nice brick homes with well cared for yards and lots of big trees. My old house which was a corner house with trees lining one side was nicely cared for and the trees were still there and looking magnificent (nearly 40 years later).

It didn’t help that we visited the Hermitage first and got a dose of a self made man who imposed a lot of cruelty on people as part of his legacy. Jackson has never been my favorite president. He is one of those men who’s effect on history I view as a point in which life really could have been significantly different if he had died at birth. I don’t mean to say Jackson was a monster of a person. He, like all of us, is a product of his upbringing and he did many great and kind things and his persona had a powerful influence on the people of Tennessee. His presidency did shape this country and some of those changes are what I find fault with. Not to debate the pros and cons of Jackson, but rather to make a point that few of us are given opportunities for greatness and most of us are not. Not to say we can’t be influential during our life time, but most of us are most effective in a much smaller pond. Mixing that idea with the visit to my past, I have to come to grips not only with how small my pond is, but how little a ripple I’m leaving.

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