Why do I continue?
I like the deliberate ambiguity. “”Why do I continue?” teases on a number of levels (including causing me and my readers to wonder whether I am being rhetorical). After the teasing has worked its will, the reality remains. There is a story I want to tell from the 1961 birthday report.
After several readings of the previous post, I realize that comparing each of my 68 birthday celebrations to an annual report written in the genre of a morality play may seem odd. However, I am odd. What you are getting here yesterday, today, and (who knows) maybe even tomorrow is authentic Joel.
Germane to any celebration is that I have had an exciting life and have experienced a lot of fun. A lot of fun. A good example of my perspective is an outgrowth of a conversation I had with a graduate student who had recently arrived at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering. We spoke about Suzhou, a magical city in southeast China founded in 514 B.C.
The previous week I had a conversation at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe with a faculty member whose home was Suzhou. To my distress, she described the economic modernization that has robbed Suzhou of much of its charm. When I relayed this information to the graduate student, he asked,
“When were you in China?”
“I was not even born in 1984.”
“What a shame. You have no idea how much you missed. China was wonderful in 1984.”
“Youth is wasted on the young.”
The key to understanding this birthday cycle posting took place when I was 14 years old and met the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The meeting took place at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the Church of Dr. King’s father. It was a Sunday. My friend Harold, an African-American minister, had asked whether I wanted to accompany him for services. There was nothing in the world I wanted to do more.The previous weekend Harold and I attended services together at my synagogue.
Dr. King’s sermon focused on a difficult passage from the Book of Mathew. A sin against The Father and the Son, the passage read, can be forgiven. A sin against the Holy Ghost can never be forgiven. After the service, Dr. King greeted each of the churchgoers who came up to him. Dr. King and I spoke for 15 minutes.
This was the most significant event in my life. Fathers will tell you the birth of their children was most significant. My 15 minute meeting with Dr. King was far more significant. Meeting Dr. King prepared me for being a father and a grandfather.