Jack was experiencing another melt down. An appropriate analogy for the origin of Melt Down. A nuclear power plant of any sort, has to be kept cool. There is more heat available in nuclear fission that can be used.
Jack volunteered for the nuclear submarine service as an engineer and thus, he is somewhat familiar with these things. The reactor must be kept cool enough to survive, to be useful and not dangerous.
The melt down Jack was experiencing was internal and dangerous to him. He was loosing his cool. His core purpose of being was under question. Jack was reacting to his perceptions of life and his purpose under those perceptions. He felt he was too old and, well, sort of worthless. He thought of those mile long lines of old grain cars that are seen in a side track sometimes near the highway. Another thought of being set aside is the farm machinery we see near the fields where the new fresh green painted combine is moving among the crop.
Old machinery, old abandoned houses with weathered gray siding and a grown over driveway. Set aside as a symbol of that old Grateful Dead song, “Old and in the way, that’s what I heard them say. They’ll never care about you when you’re old and in the way” That’s the illusion we believe.
We are old, yes. Our hair matches the old barn boards of gray..sometimes a silver gray. So easy to set ourselves on that shunt of rusty steel. Coupled with an endless line of others. Tattooed with gang paint spray and brake hoses disconnected. Forever. Out in the field, the old fashioned tractor almost hidden with the tires flat and grass growing through the frame. How it must be in the dormitories of the old we envision our end. Visitors these days like Clayton Moore with his mask asking how the food is.
Suddenly, Jack bolted awake with a memory of incredible worth. His worth to an absolute stranger a few years ago. After following an ‘instinct’ to visit an acquaintance in the big hospital, Jack had an experience that doubled in size as he thought of it.
When Jack left his new friends room there was a young man, walking slowly down the long corridor. An unusual appearing youth with large hoop earrings. Jack asked him if he wouldn’t mind if he walked beside him. “Sure, that would be OK. My doctor said I had to walk around this floor several times a day” Jack did not ask the young man why he was in hospital. At the next corridor junction, Jack stopped and said he was going to the right and it seemed his acquaintance was going left. Jack then asked if he could pray for the man. It was OK with him and a prayer with permission to put his hand on his shoulder was put forth. “OK” Jack does not remember his prayer but afterward the young man told Jack: “God sent you” Jack said, yes He did.
So now worth, eternal worth came flooding into Jack’s pity party and that was exactly what was needed. We are not abandoned machinery although existential thought and words say we are worthless no matter how old we are.
Jack has been reading a bit of Sartre, Joyce and Nietzsche for research. Some of that old ink stained Jack’s mind perhaps. Hopelessness, no meaning to life and other cheery stories can inculcate deep, they strain to dominate one’s spirit but God sent Jack a memory. A memory stronger than death, as strong as the grave and many waters cannot flood this love. Rich and priceless memories that fill Jack with hope and a life well lived through the eternity we all glimpse, as through a darkened glass.
It’s pretty good. Jack Gator