When I was a police supervisor in my 40’s, a young patrol officer who also happened to be my friend asked me what I thought about growing up in the 70’s. Jeff, had heard there was a lot of non-committal free love going on back in the day and also that there were hippies living in communes and that marijuana was so prevalent that almost everyone smelled like a weed factory. I told him that there certainly was ‘free love’ and weed seemed to be everywhere and yes indeed, communes and more so, the mindset that goes along with it, were all common. Then Jeff asked me what I thought of it all. I think he was pretty certain that I was going to say that I loved it. So I surprised him when I told him that I didn’t like it at all. He immediately asked why? I said nothing mattered, nothing had meaning.
The late 60’s and early 70’s had the anti-Vietnam war movement going on which meant very much to many people but by the time I was in my teens that had all ended and weed, meaningless sex, drugs of all kinds and simply not giving a damn seemed to be in vogue and while I partook in much of that not care lifestyle, I didn’t like it much and I was actually puzzled by it.
Many years later when I was in the infant stages of writing, I found myself struggling to get a sentence just right in an article that I was writing. So I asked a friend who had more schooling than me what she thought would be a better way to word what I was trying to get across. She said, “You know, you’re not getting money for it, you’re not getting a job for it, or a promotion, so, I wouldn’t worry about it. Who cares, leave it as it is.” I didn’t listen to my well educated friend and trudged on by myself trying to get it just right. I was surprised by her seemingly mercenary attitude. Didn’t she see the value in the articles meaning? And wasn’t that ‘enough’?
And just a few days ago, a 27 year old self-defense student at my martial arts school, ‘The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense’ told me his thoughts about the Navy Destroyer John S. McCain that had just been in a crash off the coast of Singapore. It collided with a giant oil tanker. At the time, it appeared that 10 sailors had been trapped and killed in the collision. Elijah had been in the Navy having just left the service about 10 months previous. His boat was The USS John McCain. Elijah told me that he knew all 10 of the missing sailors and that three of them, were friends. He talked about the possibilities of what could have caused the crash and also about the immediate aftermath and what the sailors were probably doing to save the vessel. All conjecture of course, but possibilities. And he told me how he felt about his comrades. He was mature. He was strong. He had deep feelings inside.
Soon after our talk, we went across the street to the local pub and joined a group of students who were already enjoying adult beverages and conversation. We split up and I sat with a different group of students. About 20 minutes later, I saw Elijah getting ready to leave but before he did, he shook my hand and said goodnight.
About 30 minutes later, our Chief Instructor got my attention and asked me to come to where he was sitting at, near where Elijah had been. He was pointing at two drinks and a piece of paper. He said, “Look at this, check it out.” I still couldn’t understand what two full drinks and a note could possibly have to do with me but when I saw the paper, I was immediately moved by something that had a ton of meaning.
The untouched drinks consisted of one shot and one beer. There was a note in between the drinks that said, “For my brothers on the USS John S. McCain—Rest in Peace—Fair Winds and Following Winds.”
Elijah didn’t tell anyone what he had done and what he had left at the bar. He just said his goodbyes and went home. The bartender, Nina, cried when shown the note and the macho types around the bar all went silent. Few words were spoken.
And for me, it reminded me of what really matters in life. Things that have deep meaning. Things that matter on a grander scale than just personal gratification. Deep concern and care for those in our immediate circles or on a larger scale, care for all of what life is.
People can go through the motions of being an engineer, soldier, martial artist, police officer or even a surgeon. But the ones who follow a deep meaning in what they do make it count, make it stick, make a difference. They live life as it should be, with meaning.
Steve’s latest book: http://tinyurl.com/zcbkkyy
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
Latest posts by Steve Kovacs (see all)
- Black Lives Really Mattering and My Friend the Boxer - September 7, 2017
- Meaning—Makes the Man and Woman–Makes the Difference - August 28, 2017
- Bars, Demonstrations, and Getting Thumped… - August 14, 2017