Occasionally I feel the need to write about things not related to the automotive world, and today is one of those days. While the realm of the automobile is filled with many trophies and titles to win, and the people who win them are often moved to tears and elation for the goals they have achieved, in the grand scheme of things such accomplishments are fleeting moments.
Record breaking titles like Richard Petty’s seven NASCAR championships, Tom Kristensen’s eight incredible victories at Le Mans stand as temporary zeniths to one day be eclipsed, while tragedies like the loss of drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Dan Wheldon were temporarily mourned but the sport continued onward.
Even a supreme gearhead such as Jay Leno has openly admitted that even with his vast collection at his daily disposal, the one constant in his life is his wife, Mavis.
Many of us invest huge amounts of time and effort into our jobs, hobbies, and interests, and while they may generate many laurels for us to wear and possibly bloated bank accounts as a result, none of them will ever be able to provide true happiness.
The title of this blog entry, as many of you may have already guessed, is an homage to the long-running Broadway musical “Rent.” While some might think this play was simply to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, to me, and many others, it was a powerful statement about the trials and tragedies of life that love has the power to overcome. No matter if it’s the love shared between friends, or the desire that draws two people to want to spend their lives together, we witness the characters face fears and challenges with new courage they never knew they had, and that courage was provided by someone else who cared.
The lyrics of this song ask how a year in someone’s life can be measured. While the verses suggest days, sunsets, and how we lived as examples, the chorus echoes,
“How about love?”
Some might say this was a topic better suited to Valentine’s Day, but as someone recently pointed out to me, if we only bother showing our emotions about those we care for on one day a year, then all the flowers, cards, and chocolate in the world wont make up for the days we let go by.
I honestly believe The Good Lord blessed each of us with certain talents, and those gifts cover a myriad of skills and abilities, but it’s amazing how many of us struggle with putting our emotions into words. We’ve seen it in countless films and read about in novels, but one film stands out in my mind, and that is Steve Martin’s creative re-telling of the story of Cyrano De Bergerac called, “Roxanne.”
This entertaining comedy embodies how some can speak, some can write, and some struggle to do either one when it comes to matters of emotion.
Its not that those who struggle don’t feel these things just as deeply as anyone else, it’s just that uttering the words or writing them down is a painful process all its own. They wish to be able to do so, but not knowing how to craft such a message for the desired result is incredibly frustrating. The fear of a negative result only adds to the anguish, but many times the look on these faces can speak volumes if we but take the time to learn the cues.
The other end of the spectrum can be just as bad, as some can not only speak or write, but do both equally well. These people suffer from not being able to turn things off as they repeatedly seek to describe the things they feel. Somehow whatever comes out never seems to be quite right and a non-stop effort can then ensue in a quest for the classic capture of a given moment or emotion.
A good analogy for these extremes would be to say you’d like to take a dip in the pool on a warm summer afternoon. You close your eyes and step forward only to find you’ve landed in the center of the Sahara Desert, or the middle of the swelling Pacific Ocean. Both options represent an extreme end of what you were expecting, one being barren and the other wildly excessive, so instead of gaining any kind of pleasure, instead you now fear for your life…neither of which are good things.
All of us probably remember our first experience of joy and loss during our teen and early adult years, and while we thought the world was ending when it happened, we soon learned life had much bigger obstacles for us to deal with.
Some of us soon found the loss of our first truly adult relationship was much more difficult, mostly because we actually began to envision our lives with this certain person as a vital part of that equation. Nothing ever hurts worse than ripping apart a dream we thought was close to reality.
Unfortunately, a growing number of us have experienced the harrowing pain of tearing apart a reality after spending many years of effort building it brick by brick. To demolish a home, a family, and a life into so many puzzle pieces is one of the most brutal learning experiences a person can ever face, but it also shows how incredibly resilient our hearts and souls can be.
For many who have walked these paths, we have come to discover that the love provided by our families and friends can be the lifeline for survival. While it can never complete us in the way intimate love can do, its support can be the medicine that heals us and reassures our self worth. Friends and family members may also be the closest we ever come to people who will love us without prejudice or condition, and that can be a huge comfort in both good times and bad.
For me, my wife stands as a clear example of how happiness can be reached even after enduring tremendous emotional hardship. I honestly have to say that she has exceeded virtually any expectation I had hoped for in a relationship, and that is not because we have so much in common. While we do have some similar interests, it has been our differences that have made our lives so much more interesting. I have learned an incredible number of things from her, and she has opened my eyes to things I never took notice of before. While we still retain some separate points of view, for the most part we have embraced those things between us, and I’d like to think it has made both of us better people overall. I see her as glowing proof that differences can be very good if we try to learn from them rather than making them points of contention.
Many people of Asian culture practice Taoism, and one of its concepts that is more widely know in the western world is called Yin-Yang. The swirling white and black symbol is probably very familiar to most, but it’s the teaching behind it that I find interesting.
There is a common misconception that Yin-Yang represents good and evil, but Taoism discounts this notion in favor of a world of balance. The two halves are not seen as opposing forces but as complementary opposites such as light and darkness, earth and air, as well as men and women. Day and night cannot exist without one another, as one advances, the other slowly retreats. When the sun is hidden it is only then we can appreciate the beauty of the stars, even though the moon borrows her light from the sun.
Sunrise and sunset stand out as glorious and beautiful examples of how these opposite elements can co-exist with amazing result. Everyone has probably felt the unspoken joy that can come from a bright, sunny day, and what better way does that day end than with the fading glow of a radiant sunset?
Like ripples across a pond that eventually become calm once again, or the flowers that bloom, wither, and return in the spring, there is balance all around us each day.
While the desires and rewards of genuine love between two people is a great source of happiness, and essential to a full life in my opinion, there is only one other kind of love that can ever compare, and that is the love of a child.
We can wait for great expanses of time for that special someone, but from the moment we hold a child we are forever changed. Here is someone we feel an instant connection to, someone we value far above ourselves, and someone who will teach us more about life, love, and emotions than anyone else ever could.
Children come with no manual of operations, no personal guidebook, because each and every one of them is different in their own ways. But one thing is certain, no words spoken harshly from anyone else will cut as deeply or painfully as those from your offspring. Yet amazing as it seems, they can deliver a bright smile and soft spoken endearments, and like Superman drawing power from the yellow sun, we rise again, healed, forgiving, and with love that grows even stronger.
In some ways, the love of our children can be the most pure form of that emotion because it is devoid of romantic entanglement. All of the other hurdles that couples must face down are pushed aside, and all that remains is the connection that a parent sees someone they love more than life itself. This is not to say the relationship is not without its challenges, since most parents want so badly to give their children better than they had for themselves, they can easily become blinded to the needs the child is trying to cry out for. The parent’s expectations and the child’s direction can become wildly divergent, and often chaos ensues with unpredictable results.
My passion for automobiles started unwillingly on my part as I was forced to help my father work on the family car. Little did I realize at that time that he was sharing his knowledge with me, sharing his experience, and he did so because I was his son, and he wanted to pass this kind of love on to me.
My knowledge for the automotive world has never stopped growing since that time, and I hope I honor my father by excelling in what I do. By the same token, my knowledge of my children has never stopped growing either, and I hope that I have imparted some of the same kinds of love my parents have given to me.
The years I have spent as husband and father have by far been the most rewarding of my lifetime. I sincerely hope my wife and children feel the same, because I know there is still much left for me to learn, and much left for me to give of myself in the process. When I think about the time, effort and attention to detail I have expended on the long list of cars I have owned, I can only try to be sure I have given a greater measure of the same kind of heart to those I love and hold so dear.
I do love my cars, but none of them have ever held me close and whispered, “I love you.”
Material things can bring you temporary joy, but they will never deliver happiness that lasts. There goes that balance thing again, but more than that, how do we measure our success or shortcoming in our lives?
What about love?
– T. August Green