Once again in the mad rush of mid-life and a 24-news cycle covered with diminishing resources, I have struggled to find the time to contemplate something worth saying on Independence Day, this despite my intense interest in that period of history.
The calendar is an unforgiving mistress and I despaired of coming across something, or thinking of something, before the fateful day.
Then, as he did on Memorial Day, my dad came through.
|My oft-used blog photo of my dad.|
But it's a holiday. You have a parade to watch, meat to grill and fireworks to see, so I've made it easy for you (and, admittedly, for me) by just pasting his post here for easy viewing.
It's one of life's ironies that those who appreciate liberty the most, are often those who have struggled in its pursuit, more so than those born beneath its blessings.
Think about Ivan the next time your knee jerks and you view immigration policy as a black and white issue.
June 30, 2012:
I wish I knew the answer; but wishing is useless. Truth is, I don't want much any more. Things, even books, don't interest me as much as they used to. All I really want is time--time to finish my work, or what I see as my work; time to write, to garden, to publish a few more poems, one or two more books of my own. Time, of course, is running out. But I am not even close to the Buddhist version of enlightenment.
|István Zelnik Southeast Asian Gold Museum. Bupadpest|
|A statue of Stalin, toppled during the Hungarian uprising.|
Once again, then, he had to start over--learn English, particularly the technical English that engineers speak; find a job; try to make a new life for himself and his wife. His first job was as a draughtsman, inking in the drawings of other designers. After that he moved to Pitney-Bowes, designing postage meters. He had never heard of postage meters, he said, but he learned how, he became good at it, and he moved up and on to other, better jobs--in Connecticut, in Ohio, wherever fortune took him. Finally he wound up in Boston, working for himself, as a design consultant, and that's where he lives now. He's 80 years old.
But there was something about him that went beyond this man's successes. Another kind of serenity besides the Buddhist, and the most impressive thing about him. He had achieved that level of simplicity that marks people who know what the important things really are, people who have had to make terrible, fearful choices, who have risked their lives for those things, and struggled to achieve them. People like we Americans used to be, but no longer are.
At the end of his story he looked at us and named the thing he had given up so much to acquire. "I came to America," he said, "for one word: liberty."
We are celebrating July 4 here in Sag Harbor with fireworks tonight, celebrating life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'll be thinking about Ivan, and what he sacrificed to achieve these things. He didn't come here for money. He came for liberty, to be a free man. I would suggest that he knows better than most what that means, and what it costs.