Can We Talk?

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.” 
(“The Walrus and the Carpenter” from “Through the Looking Glass”~Lewis Carroll)

“Do you have time to talk about a weighty subject?”  The phone had rung while I was talking with someone else on a different line.  The message the caller left asked me to call, “…if you have time.”  I wasn’t rushed this evening, so I dialed the number.  It seemed a good idea at the time.

As the question was asked, I considered the ramifications.  The caller had left me an “out”.  I could tell him that I was too busy; that I had other things to attend to.  It wouldn’t have been a lie.  These days, I find that there is always a spare task lying around unfinished.  Then again, I remembered Winnie the Pooh’s response when asked about Rabbit.  “Rabbit?  I like Rabbit!  He always uses short, easy words like, ‘How about lunch?’, and ‘Help yourself, Pooh.'”  That’s the kind of conversation I would prefer.  Weighty subject?  Could you just tell me that I’ve won an all expense paid trip to Tahiti instead?

The caller before him had wanted to discuss a weighty subject as well.  I had already been on the phone for half an hour with that weighty subject.  I can’t count the times over the last week that I’ve spent time, hours of it, on weighty subjects.  Maybe it’s time to stick to the light stuff.  Could we talk about football?  How about if you could tell me about your friend who had a successful deer hunting trip this weekend.  I could really stand to waste a few moments on the trivial.

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this recently.  I’ve seen the frequency of these weighty conversations multiply over my years as an adult.  I remember well the carefree years, with nothing of more consequence than going to work and paying the rent and the utility bill.  Easygoing conversations with friends almost always led to laughter; sidesplitting, tears-in-the-eyes, milk-through-the-nose laughter.  None of this somber, serious, quiet communication, resulting in subdued contemplation and sad consideration of how we got to this point in life.  I have to admit, the thought of being perpetually young appeals, at times.  I can’t help but wish that Ponce De Leon had found that Fountain of Youth way back in the sixteenth century when he explored far and wide, hoping to stumble upon it, but to no avail.  But then, as I consider this, I remember many of my young friends and relations who have actually chosen that path.  Well into their adult years, they continue the juvenile exploits which should have been left behind them long ago.  Partying, drifting, working at odd jobs (when they work at all), they deny the maturity which should come with the years.  They fight off the prospect of responsibility with every bit as much energy as others put into achieving milestones in their lives.  I see the arrested development and every part of me cries out that this is not how we were meant to be.

We move through stages in life, first carefree in the formative years when we are learning the foundational principals which will guide us through the minefields of the adult stage; then progressively more serious and thoughtful as time passes, understanding by our experiences and memories that life is not all fun, not all games.  Certainly, we still enjoy life. We still have the opportunities to laugh and celebrate.  I love those times.  Experience brings with it a certain accountability though, the opportunity to pay back the debt we owe to those who preceded us.  They took time to speak with us of weighty matters, to give advice, and to be right there by our sides when we needed support.  If we shirk our duty to carry that on, who will light the way for those who come after us?

I did speak of the “weighty matter” with my caller tonight, genuinely happy to have the opportunity.  It wasn’t the most fun I’ve had recently.   And, it’s okay.  I have said many times over the last months that the most important thing in our lives, besides our relationship with our God, is our relationship with our fellow travelers.  It takes the light-hearted, hilarious times we spend together, as well as the times when heavy subjects are broached and considered at length to build those relationships.  The people I never talk about serious matters with?  They’re my acquaintances, my “fair-weather” friends.  Here today, gone tomorrow…those relationships are built with craft paper and Styrofoam.  You see, we don’t build very high when we use light-weight building materials.  The really heavy stuff, the things that take work to put into place, like brick and mortar, concrete and lumber – those are what go into the structures that stand the test of time.

Weighty subject?  Yeah, we can talk about that.  We’ve got a house to build.  Why don’t you help me with that beam over there?

“Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.”
(Joshua L. Liebman~American author and Rabbi~1907-1948)

“It’s easy to say how we love new friends, and what we think of them, but words can never trace out all the fibers that knit us to the old.”
(George McDonald~English Novelist~1819-1880)

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