To have and to hold, we say in a wedding ceremony because marriage involves holding as well as mere possession. In sickness and in health is also an important stipulation, though few “pre-nup” agreements retain the moral force they had when divorce rates were negligible. A friend in need was a friend indeed in that era. Though I doubt they took friendship much more seriously than we do, divorce was a big deal for my parents’ generation, born around 1900, and they were likely to socially “drop” anybody who initiated such an action. My father disinherited me, in fact, for doing so, and my wife and I, 50 years ago, had to go to Mexico from New York to secure the judgement sensibly — it was that or the famous six-week residence in Reno.

Thirty years on I got divorced again, also amicably, spending two weeks at her bedside later when she died. So divorce is not a no-no to me. Yet divorcing from society worries me, the splintering of belief systems toward solo niches, virtualized realities. There must be common points of agreement beyond “though shall not kill.” Is that the extent of normalcy? If we have hundreds of “friends” will we even know if one is in need?

Normalcies customs are certain to change with overpopulation, technical velocity, disruptions to nature. The rich climate hop; the poor grin and beat it. People sculpting their own lives at any income level will find a squishy terrain underfoot but fewer fences.

Sufism, or the Jain version of the Hindu religion, appeals to spiritual voyagers like Buddhist mysticism. I believe in extra-sensory perception myself, or more accurately, an undiscovered sixth sense related to premonitions and the like. Will it transmute into a saving grace? That is, an empathy for animals and plants beyond our domestic realm, or pity activated by waves of suffering beyond our continent.

We’re chameleon, bipolar, tender, then brutal. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” as the last world war song said. We possess, we have yet don’t hold, conquering, not settling; eradicating polio in countries now beset by drought and famine. Abortion is considered wrong, while solitary confinement for adolescents is not.

I don’t believe there is a meaning to life, but people who believe there should be are still prying up boards to find it; a bug in their noggin, a bee in their bonnet. We’re still an anthill.

Often I hear people mention that they didn’t want to “climb out of bed” that morning. “Hitting the deck” is another World War II phrase which meant rolling out of one’s bunk, eager to handle anything. Many lie in bed an extra minute inventorying undesirable chores and possible confrontations in wait in the hours ahead. Far from suicidal, this is just preferring to skip the day. Sleep instead; the dead can’t sleep.

“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” people used to exclaim humorously in my youth, when evolution was more in question, to express surprise, amusement or doubt. Monkeys of course preceded us, but if we don’t become more avuncular toward their habitat — the lungs of the world — we’re going to wish earnestly for more trees.

“Another day, another dollar” was another adage from then, along with “the child is father to the man” and “love conquers all.” It does, he is, and a dollar in the mattress saves you on a rainy day. But now greenbacks are plastic, a therapist may be both a friend and a dad, and love is possibly transiting toward the status of an app.

Charity begins at home, if anywhere, yet may be here today and gone tomorrow.

Lizard-like, I bask in the sunshine but enjoy a pitter-patter rain. That’s not gone tomorrow nor is running water. Gazing at a river has been our soul’s resource forever, or a castellated ridge line or a sugar maple tree. A shoulder with an arm draped over it somehow spreads comfort beyond the clavicle, harking back no doubt to primate days. Laughing, bathing, walking are rock-bottom good rituals of living, gone when you repay your debt to nature by expiring. No tragedy when ripened. Ripening is fun if no derailments occur; and that’s Lady Luck. I believe in her and she’s never belabored me, just said make your own. “Snake eyes” crap-shooters shout, and I’ve always been partial to snakes. In one’s hands they personify the ropey energy of life, a bolt from the blue.

Children germinate grandchildren, no less. So they do stick around. My own forebears, for instance, since New Amsterdam in 1656 — whereupon WASPS squeezed them out and westward with such temerity they even changed the name. I did come back, however, in 1958 to make New York my home, living in fact on (Peter) Stuyvesant street. But most pigeons don’t home. We see them in miscellaneous flocks instead, feeding the occasional Cooper’s hawk in the country and peregrine falcon in New York. Gulls, crows and birdfeeder birds thrive too, with feral cats and the like. But the blitzkrieg of sprawl has already cut spring’s songs by half or more since I was young. I go to the beach to listen to the surf for nature’s voice instead. Even after acidification has decimated the seashells and the last lion is shot, the ocean will roar. We we will fear it, too.

I like being afraid of tigers and rip tides and grizzly bears, and those of us who have loved what is being lost — from elephants to wood warblers and thrushes — can remember the adage that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

To have and to sell has been the mantra of private enterprise since its inception and Marxism treated nature no better. Nature doesn’t vote and by the time its mud slides, wildfires and desertification cause regimes to be overthrown, it will be effectually too late.

In my experience since the 1940s and from Connecticut to Aegean Greece, when people purchase or inherit “real estate” in the form of land in a natural condition, fairly soon they want to cash out. Sojourns in India and China have impressed me as no different in this respect.

When will to have and to sell be converted in some modest way to have and to hold?