Friday, September 2, 2011


Yesterday I didn’t get my computer turned on until 9:00 PM, at which point I just put off the blog till today. Today’s post is culture related. I attended a funeral yesterday, which I’ll touch on briefly. And then there’s something I’ve been meaning to catch up on. 

The funeral was not someone I knew so well that I would normally have felt obligated to attend. It was a mostly happy funeral; I like them that way. Lots of music. Lots of happy stories. I knew him from a musical jam group I belong to. There was something about the genuine welcome he gave me, and everyone, that I thought needed to be honored. It would be a good thing, at the end of life, to have people want to honor you because you were real, and you showed you cared for people and God. Not much else needs to be said.

My high school
At Spherical Model, in the second Civilization article, Family Is the Basic Unit of Civilization, I mention that I have a reference for relatively civilized culture, because I grew up in such a community. I relate that the weekend of my 20th high school reunion, about sixteen or so of us who had been friends in school, working together in certain programs, got together with our kids. At that point, all of us were married with children. None of us had divorced. This was a large high school (650+ in the graduating class), so this culture wasn’t universal, but basic civilization was widespread in a way you’d have a hard time finding today. 

This past weekend was the 35th reunion for those of us graduating in the bicentennial year. I was unable to extend my trip to attend, but I did enjoy catching up with a few people on facebook, and seeing photos from the events. While I was in town, I spent one very enjoyable evening with a BFF since elementary school, who was in the group of 16 or so. In fact, she’s the one I can count on to keep up with everyone. So here’s the update, another 15 years later: all of us are still married to our original spouses. Some of us are empty nesters by now, while others keep raising the last few kids at home. And we’re stepping into grandparenthood. As at the 20-year reunion, I am the only one of this group who doesn’t still live within an hour of our home area.  

We have explanations for this. My mother used to forbid me from driving beyond the main street between us and the high school, so my friends voted me most likely to travel the world if my mother ever let me cross 33rd South. Also, when I went away to college (most stayed and attended the local university), my mother had said, “Don’t go off to college and marry some Californian who will take you away.” So, you can guess that Mr. Spherical Model does indeed come from California. But, while I’ve lived away longer than I lived there, many of the others have traveled the world more widely than I have. 

About this cultural sample: I recognize that this is anecdotal, and not a scientific study. But it’s still informative to me. All of us have had various challenges and struggles. We aren’t free from life’s pains because we live by civilization rules more than others. But we do have a couple of advantages: 1) We face challenges with the extra strength of an intact, functional family, which makes them much less devastating, either financially or emotionally.  2) We don’t cause ourselves problems that come from uncivilized behavior: no alcoholism or drug addiction (although not 100% of all our children have remained free of these curses), no infidelity, no broken homes, no abuse, no incarceration. 

These friends were an uncommonly smart crowd, and continued on to become relatively well educated. The women among us, nevertheless, dedicated years to staying home to raise our children—giving our offspring additional advantages. Not even all of this special group have always been able to make this choice. But the fact that very smart, very well educated women are totally at ease sacrificing career for children is, I believe, an additional indicator of civilization.  

Among the larger group of high school friends that I caught up with, there was an additional plus I enjoyed seeing—especially among the guys. In high school it’s hard to identify who will go on to be successful. In my experience, boys more than girls spent a lot of time avoiding schoolwork, just getting by, and refusing to think too much about the future. But 35 years later, not only are there a surprising number of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in the crowd, there is the general sense that in the decades while I wasn’t looking, they grew up to be strong, responsible adults. You can still see the same person in their eyes, still fun-loving and friendly. I think I’m holding up well age-wise (except for some gray hair that I do not hide). Many have changed in looks more than I have. But I have to say, I’m happy to see the changes, when aging is accompanied by growing into such really good people. 

I had a friend tell me years ago, “Be sure to attend the 35th reunion. By then, there’s no more competition, or trying to prove yourselves. It’s just everybody happy to see each other, and talk about their grandchildren.” Yes. I’ll have to aim for the 40th. Good times.

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