He was a heavy-set man of about 60 years old, who was once taut and muscular, but now succumbed to the inevitable ravages of time. I looked closely at his face, which seemed to be in a permanent state of slightly squinting, perplexed puzzlement. He probably had not smiled in many years. There was no joy in his demeanor, no peace in his bones, no tranquillity in his voice. He was a man who had spent the better part of his life trying to save people from themselves and had mostly failed. Now he was desperately trying to save what was left of himself. He had wanted to change the world, to cure the ills, to settle the disputes, to mediate the conflicts, to turn this ugly and sick world into the thing of beauty that he envisioned. He had entered into the lives of people and had not emerged unscathed. Instead of bringing them up to his expectations, they had dragged him down. Now, he had nothing much left and he was tired. Very tired. Lebensmude, as the Germans say so aptly, sick of life.
He yearned for renewal, to be young again and carefree. To recapture the joy of his youth. He wanted to swim in the ocean, to roll in the grass, to swing on an old tire from a tree limb, to meet a young lady and fall in love, to walk in the park holding hands on a cool, summer night. He wanted to paint, to play music, to sing, to experience all of the sensations that he had missed in his journey to wherever he was going. But most of all, he wanted to be free. Free of the lives of the people he had known, the lives that choked him and sucked every drop of blood and joy from his countenance. He had entered into the lives of sick and ugly people, and he had not emerged unscathed. And now he was angry. Very angry.
He spoke to me in harsh tones, loud and shrill, and somewhat disjointed. Like a small explosion was taking place inside his head and little pockets of energy were emerging through tiny cracks. He was, in effect, ranting and raving.
"You are young," he said, "you cannot possibly understand. To you, it is all so simple. You have your youth, you have your health and you have your mind. You have not entangled yourself in the lives of sick people, you have not walked in my shoes. You cannot possibly know."
He became suddenly more somber and thoughtful. "I have tried to love those whose paths I crossed. For me, love is the only way. To love, to sacrifice. It is the highest ideal that a person can aspire to".
I now became annoyed at his attitude. "You are a fool", I replied. "You have chosen your fate, you have walked in the pasture and you have stepped in the offal. No one forced you to do this, you did it of your own free will. Even I, at my young age, know that you cannot immerse yourself too deeply in the lives of men and women. It is like a maelstrom, a whirlpool, that has sucked you in. You have tried to cure what cannot be cured. It is the universal sickness and we are born with it. You are a fool."