I haven’t written lately. For those who have noticed and wondered why, the reasons are varied and legion, and have little to do with anything in particular. I did not plan on it, it just occurred, so there was little I could do in the way of informing anyone of any intent on my part; I simply went with the flow.
But whatever the case, I arrived at a point at which I felt I had said just about all that needed to be said. Until today.
I’ll be turning 60 years old this Summer, and it gives me cause to reflect. I’ve been kicking around in pretty good health most of my life – that is, until the CFS thing, which I’m still battling going on nine years now – but it has recently become apparent that I may be coming upon some of the most turbulent years of my life. There is also the realisation that I may only have twenty years left, at best.
I don’t need to tell you how quickly the last twenty years have passed. If you haven’t gotten here yet, it won’t be long, and if you have – well then, I don’t need to tell you about it.
It almost feels like a version of the ‘crossroads’ theme, wherein one begins to wonder if he has done everything that he intended to do when he was younger. Or perhaps, whether or not the things that he did was the right thing to do.
Recently, my daughter inadvertently caused me to call this thought to mind and inspect the content.
Neither of my two children have elected to have children of their own, which I happen to think is the ‘ultimate responsibility’ of one’s life. At the ripe ages of 32 and 36, I’m assuming they will never know the feeling, and will thus miss out on one of the most pleasurable, and in some ways tormenting, passages of life.
In a less therapeutic sense, this gives them nothing but themselves to think about, and thus they never will be able to truly remove themselves from the centre of their universe. An unfortunate circumstance to be sure. One day I fear they may find something missing that they cannot quite put their finger on; for at the very core of our existence rises the irrepressible urge to leave something of ourselves behind, and there is no better thing to leave but a living, breathing organism that is a product of oneself.
So, I suppose one could say that the last 59 years have been a learning experience.
I’m thinking that this was, at one time, something that was understood by those younger generations, and that they viewed older people as having good information to impart, simply for the asking. This at least appears to have been true in the culture of the Far East.
During my twenties, I became more than ‘a little’ curious about the origins of religion, and studied each one with a voracity that I can no longer muster. I studied them all, attempting to find the common thread in each. Although raised in the Deep South in America, I could not embrace without question the Middle Eastern teachings of the Jews nor that of their rebellious son and miracle worker. Blind faith was required to swallow these pills, and this was something that was not a natural part of me, and attempts to instill it through fear had failed, and only succeeded in making me more determined. The only thing that I had carried away from all of the regularly scheduled programming was the quote, “Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and the door will be opened”.
I studied Hinduism, bought the Rig Veda, and the Upanishads, but found the personification of man in deities far too dated and cryptic to my liking. I studied Islam, but quickly realised that there was nothing there of value. I burned my Koran. The author was clearly not writing as an enlightened individual, but one filled with hate for his fellow man.
When I found the Dhammapada, a Buddhist text, I began reading it expecting little in return. It took some while before I began to detect a certain ‘taste’ in these scriptures, but it was enough to keep me interested, as the translation was so incredibly clean and uncluttered. I also discovered that, at its core, Buddhism is not a religion, as many believe, but a philosophy of life. As I became more interested, I studied the different ‘branches’, and determined that Japanese Zazen seemed to me the purest form, and decided to attempt to practice the art.
Over the past thirty years, I have held to the philosophy, and, along with P. D. Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way, keep the Book of Buddha beside me on my bed, as it is one of my most beloved texts. At this point, I feel as if I have become a well versed student of the philosophy of Buddha. Enough so that I keep it to myself. I concluded that talking about Buddhism is the worst thing that one can do, so I’ll stop here.
My oldest child, and only daughter, who lives many hundreds of miles away, visited last month. I was overjoyed, having been forced to live without her nearby for the majority of her life. My influence on her was not as I would have preferred it, but the cause for the distance between us was one of her choosing, as she freely admits. After she departed, it seemed like a dream, and I was saddened by the feeling that I no longer knew her.
As of late, I was contacted by her, and blindsided by her attempts at blaming me for all sorts of her personal suffering, the greatest transgression being that I was unavailable to her for the majority of her life. She then informed me that she had recently been studying Buddhism – Zen in particular – and implored that I ‘resume my studies’.
Ah – kids. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.
Yes indeed. Wisdom is wasted on the elderly.