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Senior Correspondent

When they lie there in their cribs,
It seems as though you can look 
Right into their hearts.
That you will always understand them
And they you.
In truth you will always be on
Different trajectories arching through
Unique experiences in life.
You will remain decades apart,
Seeing existence through varied lenses.
This is a time capsule I launch,
On its arch across space-time.
In the hope that it will,
When needed – intersect with theirs
Creating moments of understanding,
Providing shelter from the storm,
And surprising them with love.

My father's death was a strange surprise. It wasn't one of those "He was so young, we never saw it coming" situations. It was quite the opposite as a matter of fact. He was 100 years old.  He had always been in the world – as certain as taxes and, well, death. My mother and older brother were examples of "normal strange." Jim, too young, Mom sudden and unexpected. As a result I have grown used to "imagining them on my shoulder." I ask them the questions we all ask of our departed role models "What would you do in this situation?" "What did you believe?" 

I make my best guesses as to their responses. But they are only guesses. We rarely have those "deep" discussions when we can actually get answers — and then the chance is gone.

Dad was the illusion of an exception. 100 seemed normal. He was always there, and for decades he would provide, if not answers, then at least input or opinions. However, during the last few years of his life, when a good day for Dad was defined by clear memories of events long past and simple recognition, I realized I had already lost the chance to ask Dad "What would you do in this situation? What do you believe about this part of life?" The opportunities for mutually meaningful conversation had slipped away, lost between the more surface joviality of birthdays and Christmases, lost between the time-and-energy pressure of jobs and children, lost in the gap between his maturity and mine.

I'm not sure exactly why or when I decided to try to reclaim those losses by reflecting on both what I believe about existence and how those beliefs influence what I have done and what I will do. And then, to use those reflective insights as the foundations of these media recitations. 

By looking back through my writings and drawings, the introspection seems to have surfaced around the turn of the millennium. That moment's import on the Gregorian Calendar is probably of less significance than that point in the RobertSchragian calendar — I had turned 50 in 1999. And strange things happen when you suspect that more of your life lies in the rear view window than awaits beyond the windshield.

In our youth obsessed culture, the inclination to try to scramble back into life in the rearview window is well-represented in fact and fiction. More valuable, I have come to believe, is seeking an understanding of what unifies the full 360 degrees of our life; realizing that those rearview, windshield, out the side-windows, distinctions are illusions. It is all one existence. We just tend to look out the windows one at a time.

When I cruised past 50, it was as if I somehow levitated above the vehicle — and there I was suspended in the center of my existence — limitless horizons in all directions. It was staggering. On the one hand it was exhilarating – everything gained new potential, a new freedom to zoom off in any direction. On the other hand it would be an agoraphobic's nightmare, hidden threats lurking around every corner. Reconciling those extremes, to reveal the underlying existential unity of a life, is the challenge and the true exhilaration of "life outside the vehicle."

It was not long after beginning that exploration of life outside the vehicle, that I came to realize that "some kind of Harmony" was central to my personal existence. Most everything I have written, or drawn, since that realization reflects my attempts to understand and articulate that Harmony. Distilled Harmony — this series of recitations — is, in my mind, the best, clearest exploration of this worldview to date. I hope it allows my daughters to better understand me. If others benefit as well, that is truly wonderful!

So enjoy…

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