Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meeting--what is "networking" anyway?

So, I return from my meeting of local youth professionals. I am uncertain why I attend these, though I recognize that I do find some sense of fulfillment in them. From what, I am uncertain. Maybe it is my vice of nostalgia, the yearning for the past, complete in all its beauty. For the past is only an image and we all know the persuasiveness of the image on the human mind. Being surrounded by people near my age in an aging community lets me imagine that I was born fifty years before in the glory days of the Range, where jobs and youth and hope were plenty.

If I were more of an optimistic, I would fathom that the prospect of building a better community or rebuilding the glory of days past compels my attendance. But I am not. However, nor am I a pessimist. Like most things in life, I am neither extreme. Fifty percent pessimist, fifty percent optimistic, and ah ha, I guess my glass is always half full with optimism.

As much as I would deny being an optimist, I do plafind great comfort in hope. However, I don't fathom is to be a source of sustenance for my daily exisitence, as so many quotes would love you to believe, but rather a source of much entertainment as it allows you to imagine the prospects of your future.

And I know the future is only that, a prospect-- the great denier of the present. But again, it presents itself to you in the form of an image, and like all images, it is compelling.

I don't have anything more to say of the meeting. We eat, we talk, we plan events. I think I go because it has been so innundated into my generation that to be successful in careers, life, etc... you should network. And that terrible word has become an empty substitute for a whole array of positive human behaviors: talking, comforting, encouraging, listening, laughing, planning, working together...

So, now we taken lovely things that we do for ourself and others and tried to make them trendy by calling it networking-- something like so much else, you do solely for yourself and self-advancement.

The point being is that I go to talk, comfort, listen, laugh, plan and work with others. I contemplate my attendance solely because I need to reclaim these verbs from under the umbrella of such a negative word.

War Photos

My mother's father served in WW2; he was in the Navy and at the time he entered (1943) the government offered seventeen year old high school students a HS diploma if they dropped out rather than finishing their senior year, and entered the military. He spent a year following land combat, his job was to collect the dead bodies of fellow troops and the dog tags to be returned to the family of the dead.

A letter from my grandpa's oldest brother Earle reports to the family the day he and their father said good-bye to Ray. He hopes to work in the mess kitchen on the Island of Hawaii, Earle writes home, or at least get some more training before he is shipped.

The one picture in the box of old war memorabilia that strikes me most is the picture of an older Japanese woman sitting on her knees with her hands in prayer position, her body tiny, her face sunken inward. On the back of the photo my grandpa wrote "Japanese woman begging for a smoke." It seems like he too felt a sense of desperation towards the woman. Hers and his own. Wouldn't he also beg for a smoke if he had none? I don't know that he thought this, but its the only picture in the bunch where he's written something other than a date and place on the back. It is also a picture my aunt refers to most when she talks about the box of old stuff. For some reason my aunt didn't want the box; when I came to borrow it she told me to keep it. I brought it to my mother's house where she and my brother spread its contents over the carpet in the living room. My brother only one year younger than my grandfather was when he left for war.

My brother wants to see the dog tag my grandfather wore and I agree, silently, that this object captures the imagination and sentiment most. As the object my grandfather wore as well as its purpose--to identify his dead body should he be killed--the dog tag which is only named after the obvious, the ID tag dogs wear, fascinates us all. I suppose, in us we realize that this tag could have been used for its true purpose, wiping our existence from time in an instant. But, I don't we think of that when we want to see it. Rather, there is something mysterious about objects of the past--the ring a grandmother wore for fifty years, the gold band worn down to a sliver, or a bowl a great-grandmother used to make bread.

We are all drawn to the story of our origins, to the story of the past. The details of a daily existence, the glory of a story in which something odd occurs. We want to recognize a past different from someone else's past. We want a history that is uniquely ours.

I don't understand how this desire arises, but I relate to it, see it as my own.