View from the Far Side

Happy Birthday, Terry!

This is your little brother Dennis, writing to you across the gulfs of time and space. Almost as though you were still out there somewhere… and perhaps you are. One thing I do know; you are still ‘in here,’ in my heart, and remembered, and loved. I miss you very much.

Had you lived, you would be 76 years old today; which leads to a sobering reflection: I am 72! It’s been a very odd couple of decades since you took leave of this corporeal plane, and I’ve missed the chance to kick back with you, smoke a bowl or two of that fine Afghani hash you loved, and ponder it all as we did then. You were born in 1946, soon after Dad came home from the war, the one that had to be fought. You were in the first wave of the generation that came to be known as the Baby Boomers; I followed along, showing up 4 years later, on the cusp of a new decade. Just as our parent’s generation was beginning to heal from the trauma of the war, hoping to leave all that behind and forge a new life, the American Dream, as it came to be called. Of course it turned out to be more delusion than dream, as the 60s came rushing in to rip the curtain back on the dark underbelly of the culture. We lived through it all, you and I. The turbulence of the counterculture, the fragile promise of the psychedelic revolution so quickly and brutally suppressed, the war in Vietnam, Watergate, and all the rest of it, the 70s, 80s and 90s all seemingly pointing toward some anticipated eschatology, some radical rift in the continuum both dreaded and hoped for that never quite manifested. Y2K. 2012. Both were an anticipation of change beyond imagining; both, in the end, turned out to be memorable only for their utter banality. You were still on this plane when Y2K came and went, but neither you nor I paid much attention. We were instead fast closing in on our own singularity. Or that is, you were closing in on it while I stood helplessly by, knowing that you had only weeks to live. And on April 3, 2000, you crossed that threshold that we all will cross one day, and now you know the ultimate truth; or at least, whether there is any ultimate truth at all.

“So Terry, thanks for being my brother, my teacher, my mentor, and my tormentor. Thanks for your gifts, the vision, the humor, and the wisdom you have shared with the world.”

The rest of us, I and the many who loved you (and everyone else), remained stuck in history, trapped in time. 2012, the projected cosmic transformation that you had spent decades tracking, came and went 12 years after you passed on. You didn’t live to see it; I regret to inform you that it didn’t amount to much. Of course you know this if your consciousness has persisted in some hyperspatial realm; but I’m sorry you weren’t here to share in the anticipation and the disappointment. In fact, I’m just sorry you’re not here. I often wonder, if we were able to sit back on our cushions and pass that pipe between us, just what you would make of the current existential situation that we monkeys find ourselves in. We are now immersed in the unfolding of the most dire events that you predicted back in the 80s and 90s: ecosystem collapse, geopolitical chaos, civilization imploding. You warned of all these, and now, here we are. In fact, we are barely getting started. Not that there is no hope. As a species, we could not live without it. But honestly the picture is pretty grim right now. One thing I am certain of: you would have been surprised by none of it. Although your vision of the future was dark, it always included a tiny golden nugget: all this chaos is a necessary prelude to the transformation that awaits our species and our planet. Our species will get through this; but many of its members will not. Our planet will survive; it has been through worse before. And its power to heal itself is beyond understanding. I’ve given up trying to identify some moment of transformation as you did with 2012 (though I never really did play that game; as we discussed many times, I believe that Novelty leaks into the continuum, it doesn’t erupt into it). So I’ve come to believe that yes, transformation will come, but it will unfold over much vaster spans of time than the life of a single person or even a single generation; but it will come. Those of us alive today are both blessed and cursed; we get to witness its beginning, but we will likely not live to see its outcome.

So Terry, thanks for being my brother, my teacher, my mentor, and my tormentor. Thanks for your gifts, the vision, the humor, and the wisdom you have shared with the world. I’m grateful that I got to share those too. Wherever you are, may you be at peace. Happy Birthday.


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