Opening Words from Sun. November 12 by Blake Marduk

My Fellow Ethicals,

Good Morning and thank you all for having me before you this morning. Before we get started I would like to take a moment to allow those who would wish to do so to excuse themselves now as the nature of this speech has many triggering topics within it.

For those of you who remain, I want to thank you again for giving me this time to speak. For my opening words topic they posed a simple question; “Why do you smile so much”. A simple question with both a simple and an equally complicated answer.

The complicated answer involves three lives and three questions that now dictate my life in honor of those lives: One life that was taken from me, one life that was taken by me, and one life that was given to me that shouldn’t have.

At the youthful age of 13 I woke up on Christmas morning to the news that my mother was in the hospital from a drug overdose. At this point in time I was with my father who wasn’t much of one and proceeded to be the happiest I’d seen him in years. 6 days later on New Year’s Eve when my mother passed away I watched him claim with glee that he’d never have to pay child support again. It’s only natural for a parent to pass away before their child does; however this was far too soon for my comfort and I spent the next several years searching for closure. I searched for this closure only to discover that only I could give myself the closure I needed and thus my first question was raised. This was the life that was taken from me and the question it gave back to me was “Does this bring me peace?”

At the age of 16 my father kicked me out of the house after the state informed him that I had aged out of being eligible to pay him to take care of me. It was at this point that I then proceeded to live underneath a bridge for about the next year and a half. During this time I stayed in school and worked at a pizzeria for money. But this wasn’t enough to sustain me, and so I was forced to join a gang. At the age of 16 I learned to pick locks and find buyers for fencing jewelry on the black market on the streets I now called home. Along with 3 other members of our troupe, I found myself a new best friend named Gavin, nicknamed “Heater” for his proclivity for stealing and selling firearms. Unfortunately Gavin and the others had an affinity for hard drugs as well. One night after a job Gavin and the others began to use, and they had found themselves in a bad batch of meth and chaos ensued shortly after. At this point in time, my best friend began to fire in that alleyway at myself and the others with us. As the only sober individual amongst us, it was at this point that I took on the responsibility of stopping this incident from escalating further. And thus we have reached the life that was taken permanently by me…and the question that accompanied that life: “Does it bring truth?” My grief could not be quelled even by the simple answer that yes my actions brought peace to that situation and that the truth was that given that situation I did the best I could.

Which brings us to the final life and question. Still homeless, still stricken with grief over the loss of my friend, and panicking about where my future would lead me; I found myself in an immense depression. And unfortunately I was unable to handle such intense emotions appropriately at that time of my life and found myself searching for a way to no longer have to worry about such trivial problems such as a future. At age 17, I bartered for a drug cocktail with a runner I knew in town and went back to the field near my bridge and proceeded to down the whole thing. I laid down in the grass, put some music on, and let the sun rest upon my face for what I thought was the last time…At age 17 I woke up…paralyzed from the neck down, confused and stricken with fear I lie awake for quite some time thinking I would have to remain conscious until my time actually came. And then a different moment came, the moment I could move a single finger. Unrelenting joy filled my soul. At age 17 I found the one life that was given to me that shouldn’t have, My Own. When I moved that finger, the absolute shining beacon of my life sang a song that resonated with my heart. Carly Rae Jepsen sang me a lullaby by the name “Sunshine On My Shoulders” and I fell back to sleep to wake up just fine later that night. And thus my final question was raised by that joy and that song. “Does it bring charm?”

“Does it bring peace, truth, and charm”

Traumatic events for such simple questions, huh? And yet, it’s what I needed to appreciate them and understand their value. I live my life to the fullest of these questions and if things do not serve those questions then I leave it be and move on. And by forcing myself to this way of living, I’ve bound myself to the two things in this world that are irrevocably my cornerstones of life: Love and Joy.

So to wrap up, The simple answer to the simple question of “Why do you smile so much?” is this: ”I smile so much, because there is nothing in this world I’d rather do.” I love you all and thank you,

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.