At 18, I left the comfort of my home and headed to west. I did not realize that by joining the military the westward gales would deposit me in Asia. Once there, I drifted hard looking for the relationships and comfort reminding me of home: a few good friends, hearty laughter with the few critical conversations that dominated the late 70’s and early 80’s.

While I looked hard, my attempts yielded little reward. The Officer’s Club, Airman’s Club, local Bible studies at the Presbyterian Church, sporadic luau’s brought me no closer to elusive dreams. Why? Why couldn’t I find the peace and love so often heard in the stories of old?  Why couldn’t I find my own Snow White, be the Spock to my own Captain Kirk or the Andy and Red (The Shawshank Redemption) in later years?

In truth, what tended to come my way was filled by the “near enemy” of love, i.e., conditional love. I was simply too young to understand the depth and maturity required for such deep friendships.  The agape form of love Christ discussed is unconditional and requires both courage and acceptance. I was never prepared, either by my school or parents, for this level of commitment. Thus, the ‘love’ of my world view comprised of old television shows, various long-forgotten motivational speakers of the 90’s and overly rosy picturesque themes painted by guest artists upon my canvas. Never once did I stop to question the drawings presented. Instead, everything was absorbed like a sponge, but never once rinsed.

The important Buddhist teacher and philosopher Nagarjuna said,

“If there is love, there is hope that one may have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost and you see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education or material comfort you have, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”

Sitting upon the shore, I look unto the sunset and acknowledge my waning years. Into to sun’s last hue, I revisit all the opportunities of agape love God granted me. “Oh Lord,” sighing, “where did they all go?”

Another minute passes, “No need to answer Lord. I know.” Each was lost to time, to myself, to frugal dreams.

And now, there … in the dance between twilight and night, I see her once again. Standing in the prime of life. She should have been my family, my wife and lover.  But more than that, she remains beautiful. And for a moment, I want in.

But by living only in yourself, God allocates you only ‘moments.’  And these moments are not, as Nagarjuna would say, real.

I am haunted by what could have been real.