Welcome to these pages. You are very bold, my friend, to choose to traverse the labyrinth of another person's life. For you surely know that as I lift the veiled curtain on my life, we will face the expected and the unexpected. We will meet heroic people and villains. Together we will encounter forgotten demons, brooding thoughts, fears and longings. Perhaps, to some degree, they will mirror your own. For each one of us before we meet our Maker attempts, in some fashion, to look back on our youth, our life. And when we do, the past dims; the present becomes blurred with the potential of the future and remains just that, potential.
One should be wary as one reads any autobiography, but especially when the author excessively casts himself in a favorable light, accentuating moments of brilliance and minimizing times of glorious blunders. I have struggled mightily to avoid the temptation.
The germ of the idea for this work began as an exercise in conjuring up the earliest episodes I could possibly remember of my childhood. It followed a surrealistic experience while I was falling asleep on a park bench in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1989. But for now, just know that a 'tiny voice' persuaded me that there might be some value to my family to record for posterity some of the events that shaped my life and those of the Scott family generations ago. We know that the demanding experiences of our childhood are the same ones that make us resilient in coping with the challenges of the future. I have also come to believe that the better we understand our families, the better we understand ourselves, and the more we will want to leave a better world for our progeny.
My original purpose has not changed, but the nature of the work has broadened from just relating stories from my early childhood to include a full range of early experiences through advancing age. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Alexander King, 'Mine enemy was getting older.' Much older! And a couple of really gut-wrenching (literally) operations on this miserable bag of bones signaled a degree of urgency to any activities that I had left undone.
This book is about my journey within and between two different worlds - one black and one white - going from the mind set of a small boy in a very large and poor black family in a small town in the conservative Midwest, to that of a professional man encountering famous and colorful people and events on a much wider scale. It is about a family of fourteen surviving the bone crushing poverty of the Great Depression, mainly through the heroic, unselfish love of parents who possessed an indomitable spirit. It was never the intent of this book to worry about the 'the road not taken,' but to target the fact that man's purpose is to build upon his past, thereby attempting to enable others to conquer the unknown future. And what a future it will soon be.
'Man fears time . . . Time fears only the Pyramids,' says an ancient Egyptian proverb. But I have long wondered why humans can't move back and forth in time as easily as they move around in space? Why is it that unlike our spatial dimensions, we experience time as a one-way street, boxed inside the present moments like passengers on a train hurdling relentlessly down the tracks of time? We glance back to a memory of a fixed past and forward to - well, who knows? As Tennessee Williams said, 'Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.' Perhaps he was right, but I wanted to go a step further. I wanted to pretend to be a 'time traveler' to the past and to capture a slice of it before the millennium comes to a close and a new one begins. It is stunning to comprehend that, with any luck, we might just live long enough to witness the beginnings of another thousand years. Another hundred years. Another decade. Another year. Another month. Another day. I suspect that on Saturday, January 1, 2000, people will do what they have done in the past: Kill each other, hate each other, deny even the lowest level of subsistence to others, and greedily grasp for every dollar they can lay their hands on, legally or illegally, while at the same time, praying for some kind of deliverance external to themselves.
Future historians will surely record that the twentieth century witnessed the highest and lowest points of our nature. It will have been certainly the bloodiest in the history of human kind. But, there were also times when our spirits soared as men walked on the surface of another world. Between those two eras were episodes of social and technological change that men of the previous century deemed impossible. In some cases, these changes seem magical and God - like. To me, such gropings by mankind in the past, to find its way to an uncertain future, are cause for reflection. In the final chapter I will offer some views on such matters.
So, with those meanderings, I now embark on a voyage of drifting back into time. But, hold on tight, it may be an old-fashioned buggy ride!