April 21, 2009

Being Remembered

"Don't get too high on a bottle,
"Get right with the Man, son.
"Fight your fights, find a grace,
"And all the things that you can change,
"And help somebody if you can.
"And get right with the Man."

— Van Zant, from Get Right with the Man

Buona sera.
No, I'm not going to go on about the passing of my father and my oldest brother again. Yes, I'm going to go on about how we're remembered.

Some of the things I've been reading and hearing lately have been coming together. Naturally, because of my experiences in recent months, I've been thinking about how I hope I'm remembered. My crew will remember me as a strict disciplinarian, but I hope they know that I'm that way because I want them to survive. Also, I hope they've learned a few things from me that they can apply to their lives. And I hope they remember the jokes and fun times.

With this thinking going on, my old buddy Neil has had some bad times lately. His father-in-law is a mean old man, to be blunt. (To be further blunt, his mother-in-law has the IQ of a cucumber, doddering around, open mouthed and saying, "Hah?") But Neil tells me that his wife has stories about being beaten, the old man's overall meanness, extreme selfishness and overall childishness. Sure, most people want to be the center of attention, and maybe brag a little, but this guy has to be adored around the clock.

Neil's father-in-law is old, in poor health and mostly crippled. When Neil's wife's aunt died, he asked his wife if she would have kind words to say at her father's funeral. She was unable to think of anything.

I associate with people on both sides of the law, so I've learned a few things. Most of them I won't tell you. But people in the Families, like Gambino and Genovese, will tell you that they would like to be loved, but fear lasts longer than love. (This was brought out in A Bronx Tale, by the way. Watch it in front of the kiddies and they'll learn some new words that you'd rather they didn't learn just yet.) In their "business", fear is an essential component of respect.

By the way, another expression those people use that was popularized by the Corleones is, "It's only business, it's nothing personal." That's a cazzo's excuse for treating someone like merda. If you're on the receiving end of some kind of business — whether it's criminal, corporate, government or whatever — yes, it is personal.

The fear capacity of Neil's father-in-law is mostly diminished in Neil's wife, and has never had an effect on Neil. But I've noticed from hearing about the old man and knowing about people like Gambino that fear fades. When respect is rooted in fear, then there's not much respect left over when the fear is gone. This old man never generated love, either giving or receiving. And the fear that by which he ruled his family has mostly evaporated.

How rich you were, how powerful, how you sold your soul to a company to be successful in your business, what kind of car you owned, all are all going to fade (especially if you were ruthless and worked through fear, intimidation and bullying). They certainly do not impress God. When we show kindness to others, do good for others, help out someone in need, develop our spiritual values, show love in general — those things are fondly remembered. And I do believe that they count in the next life.

I hope I'm building something worthwhile that will last after I'm gone.


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