Dallas, TX –
I once visited a Frank Lloyd Wright home filled with paintings by Matisse. The house, that art, epitomized "modern". Yet both were a hundred years old. I decided, then as now, anything "modern" conveys an emerging dialect not yet widely spoken.
Being a "modern" person is rarely about when someone was actually born, although today's cybercast generation is swarming with magnetic moderns posting their edgy sense of self and sense of humor. Whatever the age, "modern" evokes someone who exudes a compelling comfort from the inside out rather than brandishing veneers assigned by tradition, politick or religion. Genuine moderns honor the past but are not hostage to it. Growing younger while getting older. It's God's fountain of youth.
I've always loved modern women. And being male, relished modern men. I recently lost two of the latter; friends who were, on the surface, polar opposites yet distinctly cut from the same modern men cloth. These two farewell friends had names that rhymed: Barclay Keese and Lou Reese, both in their 50s, both engrossing modern males. Barclay never had money to speak of while Lou had unspeakable sums yet each was rich in his original way: Lou's family business development empire with properties spanning the planet; Barclay, a retired IRS family man in suburbia. Both were predisposed environmentalists - Lou being an earliest advocate for international land and resource conservation, Barclay a prolific organic gardener. Each could talk about today with worldly immediacy while referencing yesterday with inveterate intimacy. Barclay Keese and Lou Reese not only died in the 21st century, they lived it.
These men embodied an inquisitive nature more embracing than St. Peter's outstretched arms. Neither felt superior to someone at anyone's expense nor confused their economic profiles with personal worth. Neither saw someone's gender or skin color as a measuring stick of social rank. They regarded another's religion as alternative options in the spiritual buffet of life and love. Each interacted with gay people, children or political opposites as fluidly as others might slice an apple pie - senior citizens with resilient spirit and elastic souls. Contrast this with persons, many young enough to be their children, who suffer hardening of the emotional arteries in the guise of doctrinaire maturity. Implacable types who forfeited their youth when their humanity became no longer intellectually accessible, empathetic. Modern.
As a poet, writer, speaker, I have throughout my adult life written and delivered eulogies. A requiem for a woman is like writing a song. But penning as a man about men is akin to performing verbal jazz. So, upon learning that my two modern male cohorts were gone, I played the 1959 Miles Davis masterpiece Kind of Blue. That opus remains a timeless classic. In any era or other words in other worlds, great art has life everlasting. Always approachable. Memorable. Forever modern.
To today's modern man, whose translucent demeanor transcends the masculine myth; to future and passed men of the world like Barclay Keese and Lou Reese. Amen brothers.
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.
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