Life & Death > Warm Impermanence

Warm Impermanence

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: October 26, 2010

The leaves are turning, falling, rustling underfoot with a most pleasant crunch as they find their way under my shoes. I’m not seeking them out, they gather underfoot as I hustle into class before sunrise to administer a final exam. I’m in the middle of the middle of America. Dayton, Ohio. I’m staying next to Dayton University, across from the sports complex. I’m on Edwin C. Moses boulevard. This fact is not lost on me as jogged the rubberized track at the stadium earlier in the week. The track was set up for steeplechase. Not Edwin’s event, not mine. But it bridged the gap nicely. Edwin owned the intermediate hurdles event for roughly 10 years. To put it another way, he didn’t lose a race at that distance for 9 years, 9 months and 9 days. Granted, I didn’t lose a race at that distance either, but I didn’t enter any events. He was winning gold medals every time he turned around. He turned around most weekends. Best I could say for myself was that I had a 3 year spree where I didn’t lose a local race on a military base. I raced every race I could where I worked and won them all. Same idea, I was just doing it in a much smaller pond. At my best I could do a lap around a track in 60 seconds. I did that once or twice at age 14. Never repeated it once I started racing longer distances. As I approached 40 year of age I took a shot at seeing if I could break 70 seconds. I was around 74 seconds. My teeth were bleeding at the end of the lap. I expect there were other signs telling me that perhaps this was not appropriate behavior for a man that age. I’m actually running late for the class, well late for being early. The final is supposed to start at 8, but I said I’d start at 7 so some folks could catch earlier flights. Dayton is not the most hopping airport and so the flights are often 4 hours apart. I’m being a nice guy perhaps. But you never know. You never know when someone or some thing will crash and burn. You can accommodate people into an early grave and not know it. I did go back to the track my second day here, that time I had my timer along and could have taken a shot at breaking 80 seconds for a lap. The gate was locked! Someone was looking out for me. I was not being given the chance to destroy heel or hamstring on this track. Maybe it was Edwin Himself looking out for me. He is done with his dominance as a global hero. I’m done with my dalliance as a local one. All this passes. I haven’t checked in to see how Edwin is doing. I do wonder if he ever drives by this street, just to see his name on the road sign by the track. Maybe he does, on days when he’s feeling down…wanting to look back and smile. I’m in the commuter terminal at Dulles Airport now. Just finished some really bland pizza. Bland pizza makes no sense to me. Pretty sure it uses fake cheese and avoids all spices. It is neither overdone or underdone. It is the least exceptional thing I’ve put in my mouth in months. It is warm though. By and large my students did well in class this week. I asked them the first day if anyone wanted to be “the honor graduate”. No one bit. This question was based on a prior student who was offended when she found out that there would be no gradation in her class, that everyone would pass. She wanted to see a few people fail, I think she would have enjoyed the leaves that were being crushed underfoot this morning. I hate grading people in my classes. It is much like putting them in to run against Edwin in some cases. When Edwin ruled, everyone knew they were going to get beat. And the same is true when some folks face a test. They know they are going to get crushed and there is nothing they can do about it. They were not born Edwin, and they get reminded of that every time they take a test. They go through life being reminded that they are the bland pizza in this world. I thought this story would end at Dulles. In fact it did. I trashed that ending after a visit to the Cloisters in the far northern reaches of Manhattan. I’d been hearing about the Cloisters since my first NYC visit as an adult in 2002. But it was way, way north up near 190th. I’d never been north of 110th on prior visits. This time I made it. It really is quite the piece of architecture. Like everyone else, I recommend it heartily to anyone with a pulse. That said, it wasn’t the architecture that gave me pause. It was an artifact in The Treasure Room. The artifact is a Reliquary Arm. This is a gold or bronze arm that has a finger pointing to the sky. The function of the arm is to bless people. So far, so good. The part where it gets interesting is as follows. There are two ‘windows’ in the arm that allow you to see inside the surface. Inside the metal casing lie the actual arm bones of a Saint of the Catholic Church. Yes, this is how the device worked. You were not getting blessed by a live priest or a mere statue. Oh, no dear parishioner. You were getting the real deal. You were getting blessed by the bones of a bona fide Vatican Certified Saint! There is a whole different piece of writing that will come forth based on this revelation. I’ll get to that eventually. But for now, the point that grabbed my attention was this. I had thought that we all faded from warm impermanence into nothing…but now I see that those of us who somehow made the roll call of Saints could instead achieve Cold Permanence inside a Reliquary Arm. I don’t see that happening for Edwin or me…but perhaps you.

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