One of the after effects of drifting further towards geezer hood is you become more aware of the transience of everything. Death is the final transience, but other things fall away as we crawl towards the abyss. Boomers like me become more aware of our own morality when we hear of the death of the celebrities, especially rock stars we grew up with. The death of George Harrison was not much noticed, but the sudden death of John Lennon was cataclysmic. 2016 saw the death of many of the people we had grown up with as part of a generational tribe.
Trying to explain the Beatles to a millennial is almost impossible. It’s like your grandpa trying to explain WWII bond drives. The Beatles pioneered so many things that are a given in popular music now. But more than anything they bound a generation together in a shared romance.
There were others too. Movies like Star Wars for another generation. Now Princess Leia is gone.
I was changing cell phones a couple of weeks ago and discovered a pile of photos on the memory card of my old phone. They were only a year old, but the people there were already ancient history. I felt sad seeing them and knowing the time they represented had gone for good. So quickly . Events in our lives today move so fast. It’s hard. Even our gadgets morph and change in our own hands as if they were made of dream-stuff. My smartphone is constantly battering me for requests to change to this or that, help it become this, install this app, share this huge pile of personal information with strangers to install this app or upgrade. Or else. You enter the wrong numbers or forget what you entered and you’ve klutzed yourself out of your device.
It all passes away. The Buddhists are right. People get wrapped around dumb stuff.
My writing has changed. My energy has changed. Not the dying of the light. But the morphing of the light. Who is this person? Who is he now? Who does he need to be now?
One of the things you learn in meditation is how forgiving nature is. You have your sacred sound to chant, or maybe its your breathing, whatever rubber ball you have tasked your monkey mind to bounce and stay away while the rest of you waits earnestly for stillness to gather. And then you forget. You forget to breath, you forget to chant, your mind is off the rails. People get discouraged at this moment because they think contemplative prayer or meditation is some inborn talent and they don’t have it. It’s really what the Franciscans, those stubborn Christian mystics, call “coming back to God over and over”. You pick up the ball you think you’re supposed to be bouncing and get back on the cushion. Over and over without getting wrapped around yourself. And what you find, is your spirit hasn’t judged you. You have a little more stillness already, stillness you feel like you haven’t earned. The peace you have failed to craft is somehow a little more anyway. Human beings want “fair”. One the first full sentences little kids learn to holler is “That’s not fair!” Human beings need justice like we need barbeque.
But Nature and whatever God set it into motion, as near as I can tell, isn’t keeping score. The most vile of us can inexplicably burst into noble glory in an instant and reinvent themselves. The best of us can always fall. That isn’t fair. That isn’t just. Thank God.
My mind is changing. It’s harder to write stories, harder to turn the TV off and read. Harder to sit in silence without a guilty list of tasks. I feel myself in the act of dying even as I’m being reincarnated in some now form. My experience of the world is already different. The other discovery, not a lesson, one gets from contemplative mediation is the discovery that you are not your thoughts. Awareness and thoughts are separate. Thoughts are something you do constantly, as beyond you as a sneeze. Awareness, is that who we are? Who is this observer watching the thoughts come and go?
I have died many times in this life and been reincarnated as the next version of myself, just as Lisabet was once a shy and frightened girl and became a bold writer and public speaker. As Whitman says “I contain multitudes” including personas I haven’t become yet. I am always losing myself. I am always dying to myself. I am always losing the ones I love and seeing them return from the dead as some new version of themselves who may or may not have a place for me in their new lives.