Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Has Been

Not long ago I enjoyed a phone conversation with my brother in which we discussed looking back at our lives from the perspective of age, both being in our 60s. We laughed about our “tired gene” which has mellowed us, as well as made us less gung-ho to initiate major new life projects.  And we talked about what big dreams we had when young.  

What precipitated our talk was my volunteering with a task group of alumni from Yale Divinity School shaping our 35th “cluster reunion” (classes of ’76-’78) this October. I mentioned that one of the young reps from the alumni association working with us had suggested we might want to talk about how we are “winding down” our ministries and other careers. I caught a whiff of denial, perhaps, as one of my former classmates quickly countered we might not be winding down at all, but preparing for our “next big thing.” I told my brother that I kind of felt like I was winding down—working just as hard, mind you, but with no great expectations as in younger days.  

Propinquity would have it—maybe even grace—that a writer detailing the LGBT movement within mainstream Protestant U.S. churches asked me at this time to be among those reviewing the manuscript for accuracy. I am grateful to be remembered for the various roles I played as an activist helping LGBT people claim our memberships, ministries, and marriages within the church and culture.  And to know that we are at least on our way to complete success. Career-wise for me (he said wistfully) I just wish it had come a little sooner. 

As I encourage former classmates to come to the reunion, I am learning what high achievers they have been in their various vocations, denominations, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and humanitarian causes. They have worked hard applying what they learned in seminary to the world. Jesus would be proud. 

As those who follow this blog know, I was also reading Viktor Frankl’s epic Man’s Search for Meaning during this time. I can’t help but chuckle at my choice of texts at a time when “man’s search for his glasses” might be more pertinent! But Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who founded the psychiatric school of logotherapy, remarks on our desire to leave “an immortal ‘footprint in the sands of time’”: 

Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with. I should say having been is the surest kind of being. 

And, instead of envying the future of the young, Frankl says the old instead may affirm: 

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the thing of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

Having been is the surest kind of being.” We can be proud of work done, love loved, joys welcomed, sufferings endured. Being a “has been” doesn’t sound so bad, does it? 

Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite, Donations welcome! 

For a related post, check out “I Wanted to Be Famous!” (June 1, 2011) on this blog.


  1. Welcome insight for my next doddering steps. Thank you. — Louie

    1. Great to hear from you, Louie! You have always been such an inspiration to me and many!

    2. Chris,
      As I quickly approach yet another milepost age of 70 in 2013, the time travel of my journey is moving expeditiously faster as I continue to engage the world in the ongoing process of becoming my completion. There has been so many winding downs and beginnings of the ends in which I have been a witness, a participant, and outlived their memory in the sum total of 45 years in San Francisco. I am not quite ready to add my name to that list of the past tense even though I walk among the shadows and apparitions. I prefer to call this moment an interlude, a respite of introspection, taking inventory, letting go and holding on, reclaiming and discarding, venturing out and maintaining my distance, giving names to the all that I lived and experienced, but declining to find sanctuary there. I allow myself transitory moments to acknowledge that fatigue is ever present along with a myriad of aches and pains. And I am no longer out and about to change the world; been there and done that and have checked that off my "to do" list. The change I elicit must have the caveat that it could lead to reinventing and rewinding myself to add new dimensions to my journey of completion as a total piece of work and a work in progress.

    3. Beautifully said, Lynn! I agree and find your reflections profound! Good to hear from you!

  2. Forever indebted to my Philosophy 101 undergraduate professor Dr. Miller for introducing me to Frankl. Thanks for the re-visit and reflection.

    1. Thanks, David. I don't know how I missed this book in my education. I've had the paperback for sometime, probably got it in a yard sale. Now I'm getting around to reading many of the books I missed. Thanks for commenting!