Saturday, September 29, 2007

The 'Gypsy' talks with an old friend...

Not that we're getting old...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Regular readers may recall that through a series of somewhat remarkable coincidences, my old Baylor University friend Margaret got in touch with me last year. We've since kept in contact, giving news about events and our respective families, occasionally engaging in idle banter about old times mixed with idle chatter about new times ... plus the occasional brilliant insight, of course.

Because Margaret currently works in the loan business, despite her degree in chemistry, she and her family have been affected by the recent subprime crisis, and for a couple of weeks, I hadn't heard anything but had been too busy to check in, so she checked in with me herself when she found some space to breathe. I'd like to post here the dialogue that ensued between us, partly to save it for my own interest, partly as a reflection on friendship -- about which I'll make a few remarks after the posted dialogue.

Anyway, listen in on our conversation as it moseys along and muses on our friendship and related things ... or opt out if it gets too boring, for not all dialogue is consistently scintillating:
Margaret: "Holding on and moving forward" (9/18/2007):

To bring you up to date, I recently had my resume worked on by a friend who is a resume writer, and will be aggressively sending it out starting this week. I will continue to work mortgages at night and on weekends, and whenever else I am free, but need a predictable cash flow. I am a little scared and excited at the same time of what the future holds.

Gypsy Scholar: "Keep on a-Holding on ... and moving forward (which tends, unfortunately, to stretch one's arms ...)" (9/18/2007):

Thanks for writing. I've been busy but was thinking only yesterday that I ought to write and find out how you are doing.

I've taken a look at your resume. Your friend managed to get a lot of information onto two pages without the result looking cluttered. Maybe I need to find a resume expert for myself...

Anyway, seeing the scope of your development was interesting for me. All those years that we didn't have much contact, you were doing various things. That sort of revelation always makes me feel oddly out of touch -- as though I'm living in the past because my memories are of another time. This must result from moving around a lot and retaining somewhat static images of other people's lives from a brief stage in their lives. I only really knew you for about 9 months, I suppose, and that seemed like a lot at the time, but its really a very tiny fragment of your life.

Moving around a lot, as I've done, one lives on the surface of things. A life in depth comes from being in one place for years, perhaps. But if I dwell on these thoughts too long, I'll grow too somber. I've chosen my way, and it has its rewards...

I have no doubt that you'll find a good job ... in whatever area you're looking for one. This is the right time to start looking for something else since the housing market may be depressed for a while, and your talents and skills are broader than the work that you've been doing, I suspect.

I have to stop now. I'm teaching two interesting courses today -- one on British and American Culture (focus on multiculturalism), the other on War, Religion, and Civilization (on Western, Islamic, and Jewish Civilization) -- so I need to prepare. Not that one can really prepare for such courses...

Margaret: "Definitely stretching" (9/18/2007):

When I look back over my life, and consider the choices I made, the direction I took, a whole lot does not make sense. What ever possessed me to think that I should get a degree in science? Then to stick with it for about 15yrs after college! I must be crazy. Yours appears to make more sense, and a bit more adventuresome. Please don't get somber on me. I hope your classes went well today, and that the students were engaging, you deserve nothing less.

Gypsy Scholar: "Your crazy, scientific mind trumps my crazy, unscientific mindlessness ..." (9/19/2007):

Well, I always admired you for you scientific mind even if you eventually came to see that you had other interests and abilities. Of course, I thought that you were a genius and could do anything...

That doesn't preclude your being crazy, of course, and I wouldn't want to contradict you if you're really sure that you "must be crazy." My mother was crazy and brilliant. I inherited some of the former and little of the latter. Fortunately, my strong willpower got me through by brute force...

My life makes sense? Yeah, in the sense that every development followed from the one before, but there were some serious missteps...

But enough of that...

My classes went well enough but need to go better. I hope that your day was productive. Perhaps you'll even strike it rich by playing the stock market. If so, teach us how.

Margaret: "Mr. Noze brother" (9/20/2007):

I always thought you were the genius, Mr. Noze brother. I like to be around people who are more intelligent than me, it gives me something to reach for beyond my limitations. It's odd to me that you thought I was the genius, and could do anything. Well, I grew up thinking I could do anything, that is what my parents always told me my whole life, but I failed miserably in my own efforts to succeed at everything I put my whole heart into in college. I thought I was going to be a pediatrician, but could not get accepted to medical school, therefore I was a failure in college .... but anyway how we define success in our own mind is critical. I am still trying to frame a definition of what success means to me personally. I ... desire to be set free of every wrong thought that has shaped my perception of me and my life. I also, tend to accomplish a lot by my tenacity, so we have a lot in common.

Funny you would joke about the stock market, I want the savvy to dabble there. Of course, any insight I gain is yours, I promise.

Hope your students rise to your expectations today.

Gypsy Scholar: "My diagnosis ..." (9/20/2007):

I believe, Ms. Spelling Bee Semifinalist of Texas, that that's spelled "NoZe Brother" ... but that's just my 'judgement' of the matter, and who's checking anyway?

As for your 'failure' at Baylor... At the time, of course, I believed you when you said that you wanted to get into Medical school and become a doctor, but your desire to become a doctor didn't seem that strong to me even then. You didn't seem driven by it. In fact, you seemed to be searching for what you really wanted to do. So, I don't think that you really failed in that, for I doubt that you really, strongly desired to become a doctor.

At any rate, I'm sure that your parents had full reason to be proud of you. You resisted your innate rebelliousness (as you once called it) and finished your degree, not an easy degree, either, and you had your life ahead of you. They were right to have pride and confidence -- and to believe in you. Life isn't easy, and some of us don't get the lucky breaks but life's hard licks. You've overcome a lot of adversity, and I'm sure that your parents would both be proud of you today. I don't doubt that you'll overcome the remaining hard challenges, for you have the strength, the intelligence, the drive, and the winsome character to do so.

Margaret: "Doctor, Doctor ..." (9/20/2007):

I presume you are keeping a record of my really know how to cut me down to size. Now, if you knew soo much, why on earth didn't you tell me that I was delusional about becoming a doctor....

On a serious note, you have a lot of heart, and I was touched by your kind diagnosis of healing words.

You really are a good friend and a rare gem.

Gypsy Scholar: "My sincere apologies ..." (9/20/2007):

Yes, I keep lists of everything. Just kidding. I'm hardly anywhere near so organized at that.

Let's see, now ... you're complaining because I didn't call you delusional? Schizophrenic? Bonkers? Crazy? A space cadet? Well, I thought that you knew! I'm really sorry about that. Growing up with a delusional mother, who once told me of having watched dancing mice cavorting around a toilet, I just assumed that everyone was delusional now and then, so I thought nothing of it. I expected you to grow out of it. Soon. If only I had known...

But I'll be sure to let you know in the future. For the moment, you seem to be facing up to the reality principle rather directly.

Except for calling me a "gem," that is. That's hardly realistic. Well, okay, I am an Arkansas diamond in the rough, but merely a flawed stone -- one cracked by the Gymnasium of hard knocks.

I wish that I were better, smarter, easier on the eyes, but I'm stuck with the Jeff that I am...
Despite these limitations, which one of my own brothers unsubtly implied, I still managed to get the good, brilliant, and lovely Ms. Sun-Ae Hwang interested in me. One just has to read the right literature and use the right lines, I suppose, but for that story, you'd better click that unsubtle link.

Anyway, in reflecting upon friendships made in college, I did some websearching and came upon a 'finding' by Purdue University communication expert Glenn Sparks:
"Friendship that begins during college days last for a lifetime, a new study has revealed."

[F]or those no longer in college, Sparks says there is indirect evidence from this study that lapsed friendships may be restarted successfully even after a lull in communication for years.
That's reassuring, I suppose, and perhaps sheds some light on why Margaret and I are still close friends after all these years, but I'm not especially impressed by the good doctor's remark that "making friends is like managing a bank account," though if I'm charitable, I can read Sparks as meaning that one must nurture a friendship carefully. True care, however, can go far beyond the attention given to one's bank account:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
Would one lay down one's life for a bank account? But rather than read too much into the analogy made by Sparks, I prefer to reflect upon the definition of friendship proposed by Cicero in his treatise "On Friendship":
Now friendship may be thus defined: a complete accord on all subjects human and divine, joined with mutual goodwill and affection. And with the exception of wisdom, I am inclined to think nothing better than this has been given to man by the immortal gods. (Section 6, Marcus Tullius Cicero, "On Friendship," translated by E.S. Shuckburgh)
Cicero, I take it, is speaking of the closest of friendships, the rare case of a complete accord on all subjects, but I think that we can relax his restriction to allow for some differences of opinion among friends. At any rate (and I don't mean interest), a friendship is not really comparable to a bank account.

I would add that a good friendship, along with close accord on many subjects, also requires a shared sense of humor, as the dialogue above perhaps reveals...

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At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I may know a certain Maggie. I am not certain. If you think perhaps I do then you are most likely correct. Her brother (apologies to others) invented "breakdancing" or at least claimed so. He was my only friend who weighed less than I. And I saw Maggie last near Fayette Nam.

If I perchance am recognizing an old friend whom I do not know wish nonetheless the best.


At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh Oh.

I shoulda read the text in its entirety. I may not know but jeff my friend. (And I pray you never know) if you must ever need a line to assuage the senses - use the tried and true Ozarkaian, "You are sexier than a rooster wearing socks."

It never impresses by breaking the ice. It only impresses by the obvious need for rescue. Then one must ken.


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alas, I was apparently at Baylor after Jeff and Maggie...its nice to see the Internet and blogging fostering old friendships though!


At 1:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No, JK, you wouldn't know this Margaret, so the Maggie that you know would be another person. Perhaps "Maggie May"?

Breakdancing, eh? I wonder if anyone really 'invented' that style. I'd heard that it developed on the streets as a substiture to gang fights.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, JK, I took so long to type and post my previous note that you'd already had time for a follow-up by the time mine reply went online.

You're right, though, to hope that I never need that line ... but I might try it on Sun-Ae anyway and further impress her with my craziness.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CoroNoZe, thanks for stopping by. I recall your NoZe name but suspect that you're correct about having entered Baylor later.

My NoZe name, by the way, was "Brother AgNoZetic," and Margaret attended one of our annual grand "Millard Fillmore" parties. Or was that a "Pink Tea"?

Margaret, are you there, and do you recall?

Anyway, CoroNoZe, you're right -- the internet is a great place.


Jeffery "AgNoZetic" Hodges

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At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My failure to read the entire text was waylaid by the image of my Latin "hero."

I was thinking of Maggie who caught much grief. She lived very near the site where skating once took place. A much educated one, in at least two perhaps more places.

The reference to her brothers' invention came from a story he once told. Much like Pat's. He should be moving in 3 perhaps 4 directions at once. He was the only one I knew succeeded. And when the 4'th let him not so gently down, his bruises attested.

Well. I wasn't there. Perhaps the 4'th let him down gently. Sir Isaac's may not've been so kind. He did say he spun and he seemed to think he may have been eagle splayed. He said he drove the backroads to my home and slept until my dog barked.

I fed him bacon and beer. He seemed pretty good after the aspirin had time. And the coffee.

It was only some time after that we saw on TV he said, "Damn, I did that the night before I came to your house!" It was only some time later that he was dead and I found out white men could not jump.


At 3:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, that sounds like a very sad story. Interesting, but very sad...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giggles accompany sadness if sadness is true. Giggles always are. And so remain.

And he survived Tet, Chu Lai.


At 3:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I guess that they can, depending on the sort of sadness.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Good Friend Jeff,

Is it possible to think of the loss of a friendship or love, where profound sadness is not occasioned by the remembrance of a shared laugh or (I do not mean to minimize) giggle?


At 3:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eventually, no doubt, for those sorts of losses, but there may be some devastating losses that shut off humor. Probably, you're not talking of that latter sort. And perhaps one can find humor anyway...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I see the point, perhaps. But I for one,believe,think,assess my love, my remembrance in some shared occasion where I may've forgotten to add the baking soda to the biscuits and everyone groaned. But eventually laughed at my mistake.

Where Grandfather said "I cannot ken ha ye get the hot an coll fro one damn toggle."

And at once upon my knees - whispering in the ear of a sister lying dead upon an emergency room table, "I am here, remember, I am here, I love you."

And it is not the cold body, it is not the grief that occasions the sadness of the loss. It is not the freshly mown grass and the lilac scented rose whiff when the flowers are placed on Memorial Day.

It is not the funeral home director mailing a notice you forgot to pay last months' installment.

It is the smile that your friend or sister or brother gave you for no reason you knew. It was the private giggle you shared with no one else. It was the laughter you shared when the old guy in church said, "Damn they need to oil the hinges in these pews."

And the two of you remembered thinking, "Phew!"


At 4:36 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I can't dispute any of that. Well said.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've corresponded, Bro. AgNoZetic...a long line of brothers have come out of Arkansas!

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CoroNoZe, now I've placed you. I hope that you're enjoying your exile ... possibly overseas?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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