By David Beck
It has been my pleasure to get to know our next guest author to Ideals and Identities.com, Mr. David Beck. Not only is he a loving and proud grandfather, but also a kind of “moot” of mine. We both share interests in writing and in Thomas Merton, Niel Young, and the shared experience of coming from a small town. I would like to share more about him, but I would be presenting. Mostly, I have come to appreciate his midwest/prairie sentiment and the exposure to the pains and tragedies of addiction. The original post of this writing is: https://thesefragment.wordpress.com/2022/08/17/windshield-reflections-2/?fbclid=IwAR3_3h5Z17HPdwqmYR-L3ht-vasDK_i6ywVAYwWFn66fTduflQwkZivs6vA
He has graciously contributed it here.
Windshield Reflections #2
“My retirement life has brought a metaphor from driving experiences into sharp focus. It’s noting the difference between life viewed ‘in the windshield’ versus life viewed ‘in the rear-view mirror.’ The first rushes towards you as you speed ahead, giving but a short vision of what’s to come. The second recedes slowly into the distance, accompanied by the memory of the long road that has gone before. Life in the windshield is, to my mind, particularly an experience of youth. The world and the future hurry towards them and seem to be, by far, the most important part of the road. The rear-view mirror is the world of the aging. What I remember (as I near 70) is far more important than what is yet to come – there’s so much more of it. In that light, the doctrine of divine providence often seems more obvious to the elderly than it does to the young. We stand at different points of observation.”
–Fr. Stephen Freeman, “Life in the Fog of the World” (04/13/22)
What Fr. Freeman says is, of course, true. The windshield shrinks, while the rearview mirror increases to the size of the windshield.
When I look back, my view is panoramic, way too wide for a rearview mirror. The sounds, the smells, and the sights sometimes seem overwhelming. In fact, for me, the windshield of my youth contained some possibilities, but I saw myself, an angst-ridden teenager, as going nowhere. The options weren’t endless. What I saw was a one-way street on a cul-de-sac, on which, ironically, I lived.
That was the fruit of my choices. For some, I have no doubt that the view of the world was wide and all-encompassing.
After finishing high school, in a disgraceful way (maybe more on that later), I worked an eight-to-five factory job, in the warehouse. I filled orders and prepared them for shipping. I thought to myself, “Twelve years of school for this??”
As I sunk deeper into depression, I sunk deeper into self-medication. Simply put, getting stoned.
One day, during a break, I stood at the factory door and stared out at the rain. An old guy came up to me and said something like, “What are you thinking about?” It was an odd question, however he worded it.
I told him, more or less, that this all sucked, and I hated it.
He scoffed. “Are you kidding me? Wait until you work here for thirty years before you start complaining.”
I looked at him and said, “I won’t be here in thirty years. That’s your fault.” I walked away, feeling self-righteous (but still depressed).
So, I escaped the confines of the factory/warehouse life and began working construction—or destruction, because I mainly ran a jackhammer for eight to ten hours a day, breaking down old bridges and building new ones. My main job was to destroy.
I was dating a young lady, who received her four-year degree in two years and became a Registered Nurse shortly after we met.
One day she handed me a copy of The Grapes of Wrath. She said that I would like it.
Reading and writing were the only skills that got me through high school. When I was a kid, I read a lot of the classics—well, some were through Classics Illustrated comics; however, as I got older I seldom read anything that wasn’t required of me
Little did she know that reading would be her competitor, my new mistress.
I remember coming home to my trailer, sweaty and dirty from the dust of jack-hammering all day. I’d take a shower, open a beer, drop on the bed, and start reading Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song. I called her and said I was too tired (to drive across town) to see her. I had to know more about Gary Gilmore’s execution.
All of that would end, of course. We parted ways, and I parted ways with long-time friends when I became a Christian. I look back and remember Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming album. It hit me hard. One of my friends was in the hospital after an overdose. He was on a respirator. Dylan’s words, “When you gonna wake up,” echoed through my mind.
Do you ever wonder just what God requires? You think He's just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires. When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?
I went to Waffle House with his girlfriend and someone else (can’t remember the person). Anyway, I told her, “I think maybe this is a wake-up call. Maybe God is trying to tell us that we can’t keep living like this.”
I wanted to tell someone, to tell someone that maybe there is a better way, tell someone as Dylan was doing.
But you’re going to have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re going to have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re going to have to serve somebody.
She said, “I know. I’ve been feeling the same way. I started praying when he overdosed. I keep praying, praying for him and for me. I don’t know what that means or what I should do.”
I still remember her sad blue eyes. Maybe it’s one of those brink moments, where you either leap or you hold back.
We lost contact. The last I heard is that she is an alcoholic who lives alone and has cut herself off from everyone, including her family. Her boyfriend lived, but I don’t know what happened to him.
The following years provided enough death and destruction to make me rethink my life and go another direction, but my point is that those memories cannot be contained in a rearview mirror. It’s hard for me to get nostalgic, though I do, especially when I hear music from that era. The past contains too many bad memories. Even now, everything I write, I write through a filter. So much I don’t want to commit to writing.
When we look at the past, we often photoshop the memories, lighten the dark places and blur out the uncomfortable moments. But if I stay still and focus the lens on the past, I remember a lot of it, the good and the bad. The pain, the confusion, the joy, and all that caused me to react the way I did, can no longer be felt. That pain, whether due to scar tissue or old age, is objectified. I know it as pain, but I don’t feel it as I did then (thank God).