The unexamined life is not worth living.
–attributed to Socrates
Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.
Why am I writing this memoir? The simplest answer is that Tina asked me to, many times, and it is hard to deny such a “brave soldier,” such a beloved person, what she would like. A preview draft was a present for her 67th birthday, 3 April, 2011.
Staying in the here-and-now is a good way to keep from sadness or worry. Happier previous times can be a source of joy or remorse, taken by themselves or compared with the present. Satchel Paige, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, warned us that too much attention to what is behind us can slow us down. True enough.
Re-examining one’s life can bring greater insight, though still rather limited, being wholly subjective. The ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself” was cited by Plato and attributed to Socrates. Robert Burns recognized the problem: “O would some power the giftie gie us,/To see ourselves as others see us.” Introspection gets us only so far.
Why should anyone read this? Family, friends, and acquaintances may find it interesting because they know the two people involved, were involved themselves, or know others who intersected our lives. Others may find the story of our enduring love of value, too–a story rarer these days than before, we think. Those who care for paraplegic or quadriplegic patients, including those with multiple sclerosis, may find it informative and encouraging. It tells of a life well worth living.
This story starts with Tina’s determination to live on, despite great handicaps, then explores our pasts to understand our present and perhaps predict our future. The narrative is followed by my reflections on various topics. We finish with recollections and tributes from friends, family, and nursing staff members who have chosen to contribute, to honor this warrior or to provide illuminating information.
Writing a book is a scary task. My first book, The Variable-Slit Impactor and Aerosol Size Distribution Analysis, my 320-page doctoral dissertation, was published in 1974 in about a dozen bound copies, which more than satisfied the public demand for it.
I have read that hundreds of thousands of new titles are published yearly (in the U.S.), only 2 percent of which sell more than 500 copies. I am not envisioning commercial success. This book is a gift to Tina, to me, to friends, family, staff, others who have helped us, and those unknown to us who come to profit from it.
Getting underway, I have lots of adages to encourage me:
“Do it now.”
“Work is love made real.”
“Strike while the iron is hot.”
“Make hay while the sun shines.”
“He who hesitates is lost.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
focus[a book by Leo Babauta]
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
So, let’s get going.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.
P.S. Writing this book-to-be has turned out more pleasurable than I anticipated, like writing a very long letter to a friend.