And Here's to You, Dr. Socrates
I thought I had just pulled myself together to make sense of this inconclusive summer, enough so to return to college emboldened and enlightened. But just this morning, I learned of the death of someone I was particularly close to - an individual who humbly taught me, sincerely cared for me, and easily made me howl with laughter. His name was Dr. Socrates Boyajian (Sograd, for short) - a fitting name for such a wise person. He was young, blessed with many gifts, promising aspirations, and a generous and patient nature. The news of his death follows that of 6 others this summer, yet each time, I've felt disenchanted and saddened as though it were my first encounter with death.
On Memorial Day Weekend, I took a little road trip down to Washington D.C. While there, I unexpectedly ran into Sograd. I almost didn't recognize him because he was so changed. His upright form was hunched over, leaning on a cane, and appearing incredibly aged and tired. Later I saw him in his car. His window was rolled down, and I yelled a hearty hello from across the street, expecting one back. Instead, he turned his head, and said in an unexcited and subdued voice, "Hello Ani. How are you?" I responded, and he nodded, and then drove away. I remember this vividly. I was bewildered by this brief exchange of words. Was this the same jovial man I had known, who would engage me in conversation for hours at length?
I found out shortly after this encounter that Sograd had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I remember how my whole body felt consumed by a prickling sensation, and my chest tightened up with an arresting pain. This morning, I felt similar distress, a release of energy, and then a dull and lethargic wave of grief washing over me, eroding my sense of resiliency in the wake of life's sad inevitabilities.
I'm disappointed that after a summer as full as the one I have had - brimming with polar experiences of happiness and sadness - I am not able to draw any new conclusions about life to help me deal with this. Though I feel more mature, I cannot yet identify in what form my new maturity has manifested itself and what insight it has awarded me.
In my silent prayers to God, I often ask that He help me know myself better. Of course, knowing myself entails understanding what I expect of myself and from this life. But as a result of this summer and the people I've met, I'm not so sure about this whole concept of expectations. This summer, I met someone who insists that it's better not to have expectations in life. As much as I understand the logic behind this argument, I fail to grasp the life science behind it. Shouldn't we expect the best of ourselves and others, especially if life is as fleeting as the recent illness and death of Dr. Socrates shows it to be? Remaining indifferent to what life has to offer and to what our relationships with people can unfold for us seems to me a stifling existence, void of real thought or emotion. In contrast, the example of Dr. Socrates' life reinforces my desire to dive to the depths of emotionality, spirituality, intellectuality, musicality - and all else - each and every day. He was a man who expected a flavorful and fulfilling life, and such a life he did lead, from composing an opera, to inspiring young people.
Before this morning, I was almost convinced that life is better without expectations because you are less prone to getting hurt and vulnerable to disappointment. But then, where is the risk, the chance, the hope that you invest in a relationship with someone that you might reach a point of mutual admiration and understanding? Isn't a life barren of expectations a superficial and meek existence, as dispensable as a penny on the street to a millionaire?
I was tempted to believe that I would be justified to expect nothing of others based on past experiences, and present. In this all-too-often deceiving and individualistic society, where expectations are conditional and not infallible, it is understandable how one might succumb to this. If one expects little of themselves or their relationships with others, however, they are cheating themselves out of the possibility of a vibrant and genuine experience of life. Yes, we are mortals, and yes, we are sinners. But we are also creatures of God, and so we should find instilled in us, a superior ability to overcome little faith, to raise our expectations and to realize them, and to lead a dignified existence. I know one man who did just this. God bless you, Dr. Socrates, and thank you for helping me find my way.
Posted by: Erin | September 12, 2008 8:42 AM
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Posted by: Erin | September 12, 2008 8:41 AM
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Posted by: Erin | September 12, 2008 8:39 AM
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