Perhaps you’re familiar with the Desiderata, the poem widely, if anonymously and erroneously attributed to the basement of a church in Baltimore, Maryland in 1692.

Probably those of you who have American English as a first language have at least a passing familiarity with the first lines of the poem, which begins: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all men…”

This poem warrants an occasional re-reading so go ahead—click on the convenient link and have at it. It’s a short poem. I’ll wait quietly while you do so…

OK.

Normally, I’m not much one for poetry, nor prayer for that matter. However the Desiderata has been a meaningful exception in a number of ways and at several important junctures in my life. And so I recommend the Desiderata to you. One could certainly do worse than the Desiderata as a means of expressing a life-orienting philosophy whose goal is a life filled with happiness.

I’ll further draw your attention to two phrases in the poem which are increasingly freighted with meaning for me as I continue to progress forward from middle age:

“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”

Once I get by my first response (“humph!”), it seems like a piece of advice that might actually contribute to one’s contentment and well-being in this world, if the advice is actually taken. So I try, with mixed success. For example, I’m OK with going bald, less so by the passing of my contemporaries, and I am in outright denial of my own thinning skin. But enough of me. This missive is about “Barry,” a Canadian friend of mine. For the sake of his privacy we can continue to call him “Barry.” It’s a Canadian-enough sounding name.

While I don’t recall exactly how we met, I suppose that Barry has visited here in Las Galeras 5 or 6 times over the last 6 or 8 years, staying for a month or more each time. I do recall that it was over that first glass of water, after he showed up thirsty at my gate one day that I discovered that Barry can be thoughtful, often in a laconic sort of way.

And so he and I pretty much and quickly cut to the chase and over the years of our acquaintance we’ve become OK with discussing the big shit in life as well as the mundane. Apart from an acerbic streak that is reminiscent of someone from New York or maybe Boston, Barry is a good example of the genus “Canadian.” He’s largely a good guy.

Because he’s twelve or fifteen years my senior—and because many of the changes in this time of life appear to be predictable, I have taken a few cues from Barry (and from others) as I’ve begun to surrender my own youthful things and traits. (This is also a commendable strategy–winging this aging business solo would be no fun.)

While I’m still waiting to turn into a runner, or a long-distance swimmer–both of which are still functional Barry-traits into his 80’s, I DID decide that it was OK for me to buy a small motorcycle to tool around town after watching Barry (and others) navigate 2-wheel motoring with minimal difficulty and minimal negative consequence. Wheee! Look at me: Hell’s Cherub!!

Anyway, I’ve got this little motorcycle.

This year when Barry arrived in Las Galeras he rented a room for 5 or 6 weeks down the hill at La Rancheta, as is his custom. And then he agreed to rent my machine, which hasn’t been getting much use of late, as my new knee and I sort out our relationship. And so off he went astride my moto.

Time passed; but not too much time before Barry returned to my gate and announced that he just wasn’t very comfortable operating this little motorcycle on the somewhat ify roads and two-tracks of Las Galeras and–after due reconsideration, he’d decided that it would be better to walk rather than ride on two wheels around Las Galeras.

This from a guy who in his younger days raced motorcycles competitively and with considerable success. I mean, the guy was more than a passingly competent rider.

In my opinion, his decision to deliberately and pro-actively step off from motorcycling took courage and was something of a pretty big deal. Admittedly, casual Dominican motorcycling is practically much more competitive than one might suspect, and the governing rules of the road are both bendable and changeable. But still and all–the man is an athlete and was a successful motocross competitor and competent operator for most of his adult life.

But (probably because he’s Canadian) Barry presented this life-altering decision as if it were no big deal. But it is and it’s inspirational.

My hat’s off to you, Barry.

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