What Are We Doing Here?

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” (Pablo Picasso)

Attribution: Donna CameronOver the last couple of weeks, we’ve been reminded—by their loss—of what a difference one person can make in the world and in the lives of others. While Aretha Franklin and John McCain shared very little in common in their lives or their vocations, they did share a generosity of spirit and passion for something much bigger than themselves. I’ve cried as I watched, read, and listened to eulogies and shared memories of these luminaries—cried for their loss, cried for the fact that what they represent is becoming rarer and rarer in public life, and for the families, friends, and admirers who will feel their loss forever. I’ve also laughed frequently—at the stories and remembrances, the pure joy and celebration that their lives inspired, even in death. I have been reminded of a favorite line from the brief, but exquisite, D.H. Lawrence poem, “When the Ripe Fruit Falls”:

When fulfilled people die
the essential oil of their experience enters
the veins of living space, and adds a glisten
to the atom, to the body of immortal chaos.

With these thoughts in my mind as I read Leonard Pitts’ recent column, “With all due respect, President Trump, what do you want people to say at your own funeral?” I was left with an abiding pity for Donald Trump. Yes, I still dislike the man, despise what he stands for, and despair over the damage he and his accomplices have inflicted on our country and the world. Yet, I pity him, for he will never know the love Aretha Franklin and John McCain knew. He will not die with the peaceful knowledge that he has done his best and given his all. Read Leonard Pitts’ column. It’s perfect. Because even though he’s speaking to Donald Trump, he’s speaking to the rest of us, too.

Lastly, I offer a three-year-old blog post of my own, asking us to think about our own legacy.

11 thoughts on “What Are We Doing Here?

  1. I also watched and read and listened and was moved to tears over and over again — and at the same time, I was inspired. Both services reminded me there are still good people on this earth, even though sometimes it feels like we’re losing them one after another, too quickly and too soon — but as we saw with Aretha Franklin and John McCain, even in death they have given us a gift and taught us important lessons. Interesting that you say that you pity Donald Trump, despite disliking him. I wrote a blog post a while back saying the very same thing.

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    • It’s hard not to feel some pity for him–he seems to be friendless, clueless, heartless, and shameless. That leaves a pretty big void, which he tries to fill with money and self-aggrandizement. But in the end, they are just as empty. Loved your blog today, Fransi. Glad there are so many articulate people making wise observations. That includes both you and Dave Leonhardt.

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      • I agree, although it’s understandably difficult for a lot of people. I get it, he is an awful person. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for including me in the same sentence as Dave Leonhardt — if I could think, opine and write half as well as he does, I’d be over the moon 😊

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  2. Count me as one of those who can’t find pity in my heart for him. I think people have – certainly at his age – plenty of opportunities to be kind and do good. When they make the choice, over and over, not to, then my well of pity runs dry. Thank you for the link to Mr Pitt’s article, I think it was right on. And thank you also for the link to your earlier post. It was beautifully written and quite thought provoking. I do hope a lot of nice things will be said at my funeral (very far in the future) but they also might want to mention what a great parallel parker I was 😊.

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    • I never entirely mastered parallel parking, Janis. It’s either hit or miss (quite literally). So, I’ll drive around and around ‘til I find a spot that I can navigate without risking my insurance premiums. I’m not looking forward to Trump’s funeral–I prefer envisioning him wearing an orange jumpsuit as he does 6-10 in a federal penitentiary. I know it’s not a kind wish, but there it is.

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  3. You can tell a lot about a person by what is said at their funerals, and both Aretha Franklin and John McCain were perfect examples of that. I only wish we would learn to say those things while people were still alive. And I agree that thinking about what we want to be remembered for when we are gone is a great way to evaluate how we’re living our lives! Thanks for this post.

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  4. Such an excellently thought-provoking post, thank you. So many resonances in this and your earlier post, together with the linked items.

    Having clicked ‘follow’ I shall spend some time in catching up with your previous writings over the next few weeks/months.

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