A Lecture On A Man
By Alan Burkholder
Recently I watched a documentary about the life of a man named Samuel Clemens. But the name isn’t important. What’s important is the man belonging to the name, and how he’s just as much of a human as anyone else on the planet with that kind of name.
A name is a label that’s a be-all description of any being, human or otherwise, from birth to death. You’ll never be able to read the full description, at least not all at once, because people change moods during their lifetime.
And Samuel Clemens was a man who was constantly changing.
He was born a poor boy in the town of Florida, Missouri, grew up a troublemaking brat in Hannibal, sailed up and down the Mississippi River as a young man, became a sensational writer in Nevada during the Civil War, became a family man and America’s sweetheart afterwards, and a frivolous man and America’s enemy after that, before dying an old man, once again a sweetheart, but not the same as before.
And what can you say about a dead man that hasn’t already been said, or thought at least once? Some could say nothing printworthy, but damn it all if I’m going to let that stop me.
Mark Twain described himself once as the perfect man. He was far from perfect, but he wasn’t saying he was. He meant that he was instead the epitome of what it means to be human. What it’s like to be happy, what it’s like to be sad, what it’s like to be rich, what it’s like to be poor, what it’s like to love, what it’s like to hate, and overall what it is to live and die.
It’s a long story that’s not for the faint of heart. It involves death, depression, racism, hypocrisy, murder and torment. But that’s all part of life.
Twain was a man who made himself great. But before that, he was just like anyone else: born an idiot with no idea what was going on. I myself was born an idiot, I have lived life as an idiot, and shall continue to be one until I learn all there is for me to learn. And then I will die. It’s a fact of life.
Just like Twain, there will be hardships in my life and I shall have to move past them and learn from the experience.
Everyone falls at the same speed, but our strength is defined by how fast we are able to get up again. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to get up pretty damn fast so far, and I hope to whoever is up there watching over me, that I’ll still be able to get up when I’m older.