Like a lot of people, I have a favorite Neil Young song. Mine’s called “One of These Days.” It’s about a guy who, one of these days, says he’s going to sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends he’s lost touch with over the years.
It’s a bittersweet tune about the importance of time and distance. It’s about the friends you’ll probably never see or speak to again, and the mysterious strength they can offer you that people you see every day can not (meaning sometimes we’re better off only a having a few good memories of someone than we are being stuck up their butt all the time).
It’s a beautiful song. Neil wrote it before e-mail, MySpace and text messaging, when people still organized their thoughts and mailed out their hearts in long-letters. When sending a meaningful message was still the best way to communicate, as opposed to sending a few thousand pointless ones just to say “Hey, I’m doing laundry.”
Hopefully we don’t forget how to be apart. With computers and cell phones, it’s hard not to keep in contact with anyone – good friends or not. It’s hard not to know everything – I mean everything – that’s going on in everyone’s lives, every day. And with so many different ways to nose into everyone’s business, we’re not given the opportunity to miss anybody.
Time and distance, the inspiration for one of my favorite songs and many other good things people hold dear, impact us less and less. Instead of wondering where “Tom” or “Sally” lives and how they’re doing 10 or 15 years after we last saw them, we can now know where they are and how they’re doing down to the nitty-gritty detail – the good, the not-so good and the boring. And, like a cheap buffet, we get too filled up with other people’s lives and need to take a nap on the couch before we can even handle thinking about them again.
With technology, we have the potential to know it all. It’s already improved our lives in some areas tremendously. Sometimes though, the unknown is better. Like when we wonder about old friends. There can be something uplifting about it. It’s the same feeling Neil passes along in “One of These Days.” It has nothing to do with loss, regret, love or regret over lost love. It has everything to with hope. We hope the people we don’t see anymore are doing well. We wish we could see them again, but we understand that it might not be in the cards, and for the best that we don’t. That doesn’t mean we can’t hope. But it might mean that a good memory might really be all that’s left of what we remember, and that’s something to be thankful for.