To say the very least, I am honored to have been asked by Mike Slusher to be a guest blogger. I do not blog, and my writing has mostly been strange fiction and political and philosophical ranting. However, our lives, and our perceptions of how to live, present the strangest fictions, and all we can do is mold our own realities from endless uncertainties. As Slusher's friend for the the past 15 years, he is the only man I have ever called my brother, and meant it with 100% certainty, even though the two of us have no blood ties. I am the guitar-wielding philosopher, the (laughably) published author, the fellow who shares the burdensome label of 'genius' with Mike Slusher; I am Ralph Harper.
Slusher and I met during mutually uncertain times at Burger King, our first of four jobs together. Our friendship stemmed from the onset through our shared high-regard of the song 'Stairway to Heaven.' Burger King is also where we met our third, Bobbi, and though through the years our own courses have torn us apart and brought us back together, bringing our own separate friends into elliptic revolutions, this core of three has remained a constant. There are measures of true friendship; what friends teach us about ourselves, how, through insurmountable odds the true friends never entirely disappear, and how much dirt you have on one another. Slusher and I have always agreed that this is the real strength behind our friendship, that we have too much dirt on one another to not be friends.
Slusher and I are such strong alpha male types that we have learned through repeated error that we cannot work together anymore, and that we also realize how weak the other can often be, on the inside, where we show few others, and tread ourselves only under involuntary duress. We have, however, taken our turns being weak, and fortunately we don't do it at the same time. One has always remained strong for the other. We have felt no shame in shedding tears before one another. Likewise, we have been each others critic, we have shifted the blame, we have fought and despised each other on a few occasions, and had no qualms in allowing the truth to always remain in the forefront. We have not always liked what the other has said, but we will not lie to soften the blow. Minds are individually incomplete in our current states of awareness, not one among humans possesses all knowledge, in spite of our arrogant portrayals. This friendship with Slusher has been an instruction in this hard lesson, and though outwardly I may appear to be immensely self-absorbed, I need help, too. Yes, I do think highly of myself, but part of my arrogance comes from this self-awareness, my understanding that I can't always do everything. In short, and ironically, I am proud of my humility, for it is not just anyone who can say something like this.
I have a grim view of humanity, the fact that the vast majority of us are victims of inane traditions, false comforts that serve to soothe the soft-minded into abject subservience. Innovation feeds our passive laziness, and serves to convince us that we are safe, that no hand, neither of man nor God, can ever strike us down. And there are those who are struck every day, repressed and convinced that their station will never be more than it is, the victim. Society is built on control, and our current structure is governed by those steeped in the vices of the 7 deadly sins. Religion and politics control through fear and judgment, and have for so long that we accept this as the way things are supposed to be. We embrace the unnatural as natural. We create money and believe it is a requirement of basic existence. Money has become the real god to the majority, and this is an inescapable truth. It destroys, corrupts, spills blood, and divides.
BUT, this is not life, not as it was intended. We exist in frailty, and the truth is that we can all be struck down at any moment, or we can all rise above ourselves, and exist as productive freewill agents who share a common goal to enrich one another, to help carry the load we all share, and stop destroying one another for our own greedy grubbing desires. Certain among us find solace in this truth, and we gravitate towards one another. There are two reasons for hopelessness. One is giving up. The other is to exist so positively and productively with one another that we establish all our hopes into reality, and there is no need for hope. We have a way to go before our world sees this, and probably the bridge will be destroyed on that road, by us, before we get to cross over it.
What my point results in is that, though our lives are forced into struggle, we do not toil alone. We toil with those we gravitate towards, and I have found a kindred soul in Mr. Slusher. He symbolizes a positive outlook through bleak experiences. He has been down, deeply and darkly down, and he climbs back up. He dusts himself off, and then he walks over to the hole you are in and he reaches for your hand. Maybe he will point and laugh first, but then he will offer a shoulder.
To demonstrate my arrogance, I will state that there are few folks in the world that I can communicate with fully, and who understand on a level as my peer. I can count these people on one hand. Slusher is among these few.
I would hope that my words serve a purpose and teach a lesson, about how our world can be. The wind will stir violently and the waves will crash, fires will burn and then diminish. Don't seek a finality to this life, enjoy it as it comes, Rejoice in every day, because now is all we really ever have. Do not dwell in miseries of past mistakes, because quite clearly there is nothing to be done about them. And fret not for the future, because each next second time ticks away could be all the future you ever see. When you identify a true friend, embrace the friendship. And remember, change doesn't need to stem from the actions of others, or your politicians, or your religious leaders. In the end, I repeat, no one human possesses all knowledge. No human possesses that one universal truth that will free our minds. We really are freewill agents, you must trust yourself, and you must realize that great realities come from within. The first step in advancing your fellow man is advancing yourself. Good friends are the best church.
Through the years, Slusher and I have drank the beers around the bonfires, watched the fireworks on the 4th of July, met the girlfriends, witnessed the breakups, played the songs, become fathers and ex-husbands, told the tales and shown the scars. Strangely enough, though he and I have both traveled extensively, we have never done so together. We have never been outside of Ohio together. We are currently planning a trip to Vegas in the spring, and in summation, I am fortunate to call Mike Slusher my brother, and look forward to solving all the world's problems with his insight. That is, right after we solve all of our own. I can only imagine however, that taking care of the world is the correct first step. Everything else is child's play.
Like all of you, I have a story. Burned into my memory like a bad dream, I remember precisely where I was 16 years ago this morning. I remember the phone ringing, listening to someone tell me about the first one, turning on the TV just in time to see the second. I remember the room I was in, the people who were there, the color of the TV. We lived in the flight path for Port Columbus, and I remember the eery silence of the rest of the day. I specifically recall the sadness on everyone's faces, and even the lady's face who told me I could not donate blood because of a previous transfusion. And I remember the look on our Presidents face.
No matter what happened after, or how you feel about his term in office, on that night he did not look like a diplomatic President, ready to downplay the moment or tell us what lessons there were to be learned. No, President Bush looked ticked off, like a mad Texan looking for blood. And I was right there with him.
That one month of every year when things seem to jump off tracks, when the world seems to be turned upside down, and where heartache seems inevitable. And despite Christmas and new Year's Eve and Tanner's Birthday, December has more often than not brought a little more pain than I have wanted. It has, for most of my adult life, been that month that my stomach turned a little as the calendar changed.
But this past year, December was better than usual. Tiffany was feeling good, and had even been put on the Heart Transplant List on the at the beginning of that month. The holidays were really good, and as we closed out the New Year I was grateful that the December doldrums had finally went by the wayside.
But BOOM. Along came June.
On the 5th day of the month, I was sitting in a restaurant in Northwest Columbus enjoying lunch with a colleague and a few insurance adjusters. As we were chatting my phone rang. I looked down and saw "Little Red" …
At 19 years old, I knew it all. I bought my first car for $150.00. I had quit college to save money so I coud marry a girl. And I had moved out of my parents house (after they told me I had too) to my very own apartment. It was my life. My freedom. My place. Well sort of.
Rent was $525.00 a month. That was a lot. So I had to have a room mate. Well 3 actually. I had to share a room with my best friend Brad, while my crazy, gun nut, con artist other roomate shared the second bedroom with his girlfriend. It was not a good situation. Still, though, it was my first taste of adulthood. And while the girl dumped me and the car broke down (who knew a $150.00 car would not be reliable?) the memories of living in that place have stuck with me through the years.
I remember one day in particular, as I was walking to work, I saw a man in the driveway of a home along the way. He was teaching his son, who could not have been more than 4 or 5, how to ri…