Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Today, an interesting quote, presumably from Vince Gill, crossed my path. “Success is always temporary. In the end, all you have left is your character.” If you’re wondering who Vince Gill is, then you must not be a fan of country, either. I had to look it up, too. Usually, when there’s a quote like this, the brevity is powerful and it’s difficult to improve by expanding on it. But, heck, that’s never stopped me before.
I’m pretty much the prince of fleeting success. It’s funny, really. I haven’t done the kinds of things that people think of as “cool”. I’ve had students and friends who have gone on to become models and beauty queens, football players and the like, but more than that, I’ve met (and worked with) Nobel Laureates, and even a Soviet Union general. I’ve written books, publish a blog, and done research resulting in academic publications. I’ve earned my doctorate, and been conferred the titles of Knight Templar (yes, really), minister, and even saint.
With a doctorate in the sciences, academic and industrial experience, both bench level and administrative backgrounds, I’m supposed to be successful, aren’t I? Who could ever imagine that I would find myself unemployed, and were it not for my friends, without a home? It’s not supposed to happen, but it did.
As human beings, we tend to count our successes in terms of our victories, our accomplishments, our careers. I chuckle when my friends think I’ve done so much and accomplished so many things and complain that all they’ve done is found a lifetime partner, built a home and raised a family. My life has been like the base coming out of a car with the stereo turned way too loud, just periodic thumps. My friends have lived lives more like the music in my stereo, not nearly as loud, but a continuous beautiful stream of music. They seem impressed by the stories I get from the few and far spread highlights, but I truly wish I could have the musical background, a rhythm to my life.
My successes were truly fleeting. But I can honestly say that throughout my highs and lows, I’ve tried to maintain my character. I’ve always wanted to be honest, open, inviting and supportive in my life. Frankly, I’ve wanted to give what I wish I had when I was younger, love and encouragement.
We live in a world where anything and everything can be taken from you in the blink of an eye. With our health system as it is, it is all too easy to find yourself in a situation where even with insurance you cannot afford the medications necessary to stay alive. It’s too common to hear about couples who did everything right, were sure they were ready for their old age only to suddenly lose everything because the cost of treating some dreadful condition is too high.
This to me is starting to sound like a dire post warning of impending doom, but I prefer that it be a message of hope. My friend stepped on a toothpick the other day and it went into her heel so deeply that it took a doctor a couple of hours to dig it out. This is just about the strangest thing I think I’ve ever heard. The reality is that we never know what might happen to us. Sometimes we are unstoppable, and sometimes you marry a woman who is jealous of your female students and forces you to quit your job and takes all of your money and divorces you leaving you homeless and living in an old house that should have been condemned to live throughout the worst of winter without heat or hot water and launching you into a decade long of decay and ruin and…uh, I mean, sometimes you go through difficult times.
You never know what the future will bring. Yes, you can lose so many things, even the love of your life, but have you ever sat with an elderly individual who is still mourning the loss of their true love some twenty years earlier? Time has a way of turning sour memories, and throughout such pain, these incredible people turn from sadness and loss to wisdom and joy. They will tell you of the wonderful years they had and the joy of their one true love, as brief as it might have been. And they are so pure, so delightful, and through their heartbreaking story you see their true essence, their soul, their love. And in the end, they only have themselves, and themselves is such a marvelous thing to have.