Charlie is in his mid-80s but looks like he’s perhaps 60 or so. He’s a slender “lapsed redhead” whose hair has turned snow-white. He refuses to wear a cap or a hat because he doesn’t want to mess up his crewcut.
Charlie is one of the most fascinating people I’m privileged to know. He’s a former sailor who served during the Korean conflict. Charlie used to own and operate our town’s clock and watch repair shop. Even after retirement, he still tinkers with old mechanical clocks and occasionally nice wristwatches. What is especially amazing is that he doesn’t wear eye glasses nor contacts. (He does use a lighted professional magnifier when working on intricate clockworks.)
Spending his time with old tick tock clocks allows plenty of time for him to cogitate a lot about life. Despite his age, Charlie is not very set in his ways. I respect his open-mindedness. He’s the contemporary version of a wizened old man. Cogitating, or the capacity to actually think and reflect on original thoughts has made Charlie the man he is. He’s a highly intelligent man but doesn’t flaunt his smarts.
Charlie says that satisfying his intellectual curiosity is half the fun of living. He thinks of his life as a sort of scavenger hunt. He encounters something new or a concept he never before considered, then researches and thinks about it. Charlie says all of his friends are curious folks. He smiled a boyish grin and tapped my left shoulder when he told me this on Sunday morning.
Charlie is a life-long Methodist who practices temperance regarding drink and other mind-altering substances. Most people wouldn’t know this about him, because my friend doesn’t proselytize or shove his beliefs down other people’s throats. Strangely, he attends church services each Sunday morning, but does not define himself as a Christian. He goes to church for the social benefit of mingling with people.
He doesn’t think of his church-going as anything special nor does it raise his status in the eyes of any “all-knowing being”. Charlie knows that his path is not the only path to becoming a “good person”. Charlie has looked into all three Abrahamic religions, much of Eastern Philosophy, Native American and African beliefs. He still skims books about these topics from time to time, then sits and cogitates.
Charlie likes to use the word “cogitating” because he thinks the word “meditating” is loaded with too much cultural baggage. He doesn’t meditate like a Roman Catholic monastic or a Zen Buddhist. Charlie says his thoughts wander too much for meditation.
I once asked Charlie about his upbeat, happy disposition. He answered succinctly by saying he doesn’t think about who might be a better or worse person than himself. When he is tempted to regard whether someone is right or wrong, he doesn’t worry about being for or against fashionable hot button issues unless they directly affect him or his loved ones.
While chit chatting with Charlie, he might randomly drop a pithy statement into the conversation to find out whether or not you’re paying attention. This past Sunday, out of nowhere, Charlie said, “There’s not a person of Earth who gets exactly what they think they were supposed to get. If you live your life with integrity and are kind to people and animals, you will be living the good life.”