Happy and Unhappy and Everything

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La, la, la! he went, happily.

I had a dream that Dodger was running free in Richardson Stadium at Davidson College, which is against the rules. I was crawling across the rubbery track, doing a breathlessly dreamy slo-mo “fail” at getting to him. He dashed merrily about the artificial turf field, paying no mind to the authoritative benchmarks of the gridiron, nor to me. La, la, la! he went, happily. “Doooddggerrr!” I went, unhappily.

Rather than burden ourselves here with tortured interpretations, I posit the dream as archetype: Spirited soul instinctively running free, gleefully heedless (happy) of the synthetic culture of benchmarks we construct with our increasingly compulsive content manipulation and the resultant aggravation of inbred psycho-social neuroses (unhappy).

Okay, maybe just a little bit of tortured interpretation. I can stop anytime I want to. I just don’t want to. Anyway, after my coffee, I spontaneously started thinking about computer file management. Coincidence? I think not. Bear with me.

Time was, I was known as the print packrat of any newsroom I happened to inhabit. Today, my archival record of published communications in recent years is spotty at best. It’s just too easy to say, “It’s on the Web” or “It’s in the Cloud.”

More analogy: The web of life is a wondrous thing, vital and necessary and connective. And webs entangle, even make us scream and bat our arms in front of our faces like crazy persons.

Clouds are primordial and matchless avatars of human imagination floating free above the gods’ green earth. And they rain, sometimes on our parades.

So, these were my thoughts when I read this morning of the passing of Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, published the same year my own earthly story started. Pondering Where the Wild Things Are in turn made me think of something Amy Diamond said Saturday to friends gathered in Davidson in loving memory of her husband Robert Whitton, a Davidson College professor who died last year after being struck by a car on Concord Road.

I cannot do Amy’s words of that close moment any verbatim justice with my words here, but the gist of her encouragement was for us—the “us” is important, she emphasized—for us all to live the lives we dream of, to live and tell our stories, making them up as we go along for as long as we go along, and even to call on more than mere facts when necessary to tell the story we want to tell. The “want” is important, too, she emphasized.

Robert Whitton ’66

“Robert told stories about me,” she said through tears more joyful than you can imagine, “that simply were not true!” And then somehow, the shared hilarity that followed was truer than any fact ever could be.

It was just one beautiful moment in a glorious day of musical celebration of Robert’s life, including a New Orleans-style march from Summit Coffee to the intersection of Concord Road and Faculty Drive. Bittersweet as that march was, I could feel an abundance—a web, a cloud—of life and laughter and love, deeply and broadly, all around and through us, Robert’s good spirit dashing merrily, doggedly, timelessly into the full-moon music of the cooling evening, telling the story he wanted us to tell for him, and to him, happy and unhappy and everything.


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