Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gates...and I Don't Mean Bill

When you think about it, life is a series of gates.  At birth we push through the gates of our mother's birth canal and at the end someone pushes us through the gates of the graveyard. In between we constantly confront new gates. Some are closed to us. Some are open.  When we do pass through one it may be into a great pasture or a narrow chute. Whichever it is, we are always inside a new stockade of regulation or restriction for that is what gates hang on, fences.

Don't think this is so?

Well, walk far enough across your independence and eventually you'll belly up against a wire or rail or picket.

That is unless you are a Bill Gates. Forty-Billion dollars can buy you a lot of open range. Even so, eventually every Bill Gates of this world will have someone push them inside a fence they can't buy their way out of.

But I, like most, am no Bill Gates. I am just an ordinary Joe (or Jill for my desires aren't confined to sex or creed or race) who always craved freedom. I like to think I went my own way, and often I did and have the scars to prove it. You see there are those barricades surrounding the phases of our life. If you are trying to climb up the rails rather than using the designated gate, you're going to be pushed down a lot.

There are, of course, many bad reasons why a fence might have been erected about our lives. Human history is full of people imprisoned behind the rails of prejudice and ignorance.  But I'm not specifically talking about social justice here.

Many of these imprisoning pens were entered by choice. We voluntarily surrender some of our freedom when we go to school, take a job, pledge to a life partner, join the Armed Services or enter a movie theater. Enter a movie theater? Certainly, if you are a considerate, decent person, don't you give up your freedom to be disruptive and rude so others may enjoy the film? Yes, I know, some people don't and what do we think of him or her? When we allow that kind of freedom it makes life miserable for us all.

There are fences we stand behind for safety. If the barrier keeps us from standing in front of an oncoming train, it is a good thing. We could demand our freedom, push through the railroad gate and stand in the headlight glare of the streamline limited. We can grab such moments of freedom like standing on those railroad tracks or maybe running red lights. It may be a brief moment of exhiliration and the next gates we stand before will either be the pearly ones or the Gates of Hell.

But now I find many of the fences have come down. Most of these life phase gates I have already passed through. At 70, the gate of age has blown open and I see it as the last great beginning, where I may have as much freedom as I can expect in this world. I have nothing left to prove to you or myself, really. I am pass worrying about promotions and status and fame. I don't have the desire or need to impress anyone. I've seen enough to know most of what they call politics is being played out for the umpteenth time with little change. Oh, the actors may be different, but the lines are familiar.

Yes, I know total freedom will never come. Kris Kristofferson sang, "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose." I don't want to be that free. There will always be fences somewhere. I still see the temporary, but very close slats of having a job holding me in. That fence will come down someday and I hope there is a vast field of freedom beyond, although realistically there may be other fences being erected as I type. You know, the barbed wire of poor health perhaps.

Nonetheless, I feel more free today than I've ever felt; I am excited about having thrown wide the gate of old age and look forward to this new adventure. I don't even speculate on how big this pasture is, just I have the freedom to explore it.

Death, by the way, isn't a fence. It is a gate.

All photos by the author, except the second, taken by my wife:

Gates in the middle of the trail through Alapocas Run State Park, Delaware, 2010.

Me atop a horse pasture fence, 1968.

"The Gates of Hell", Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, Pa., 2006.

National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pa., 2005.

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