Finn and I live in our own quiet world that is far removed from the insanity of a republic that is slowly and painfully disassembling all around us. At those times I imagine my home as a hut in a far off wood that I occupy like an elderly Zen monk. That monk is much calmer than I could ever be. And yet though he is just an imagined image he seems like something to emulate. Ryokan comes to mind:
|My pal Finnegan|
Keep your heart clear
And you will
Never be bound.
A single disturbed thought
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Perhaps that’s why the concept of returning to work in the sense of what it used to be is so daunting to me. The events that transpired in my life in 2014 and 2015 changed me so much that I am not sure I can fit in with that world. So much of what people get paid to do in my old line of work is unimportant to me now.
|The Doctor\’s Angel, Evergreen Cemetery, Manchester CA.|
I was thinking about that world as I was watching The Godfather last night. That film is all about power. But it is what the film doesn’t say about power that is the greatest lesson. All things have an illusory quality, but power is the greatest illusion of all. Even vaster than love in its most romantic attire. People strive for power as a tangible thing, and while its most obvious benefits are the things that all of us desire, (food, shelter, clothing, family) the corruption that is inherent in unrestrained power removes all the advantages and leaves nothing but emptiness in the soul of the power holder. Absolute power is impotent in the circumstance of the mortality of the person who pursues supremacy. Shelley wrote of it. That is the story of History.
I have been alive long enough now to see that so many fools rise and fall and leave destruction and litter in their wake that the work that the rest of us do to clean up after them is not only the most important labor but the only labor that matters—other than loving others and feeling compassion for them. There are far more fools than wise men and even a wise man has his foolish moments. I know that is true of me. Perhaps the greatest benefit of wisdom is knowing when you are a fool and picking up your own rubbish.
|10 years old|
For a long time I’ve been in denial of my own ageing. Whenever my old amigo John talked about “watching the falling leaves” as a metaphor I would say to myself that his comparison was an indulgence and in itself a defeat. I would say “not me, I’m not old yet”. But I can’t deny that anymore. I am old, or at least an elder. My own memories of childhood, as vital and clear as they are, seem like a well-thumbed book. The world that surrounded me when I was five or six does not exist anymore. Like the world that H.L. Mencken describes in Happy Days it exists in black and white, not color, like a TV show from a past that is mine in memory only. The places in which I dwelled still exist in reality: the homes in which I lived, the streets I walked or drove on, the schools I attended, all of those structures are still there (I can see them on Google Street View) but there are other people occupying them. My own memories of those places, while bright and clear in my mind\’s eye, are my own ghosts.
Yet I am still alive making new memories even though the world in which I live today no longer is my old world, and seems brittle and ready to collapse. Yet while it does my own hopes and passion compel me to stand in wonder at the great gift of my own life and the truth that no matter what has happened to me personally and no matter what happens to the commonwealth in which I live that I still have my own power, as simple as it is, to make my own existence a noble and fulfilling one. Like Ryokan in the forest, and like my friend John, I watch the leaves falling all around me and yet can also see the fresh green buds of new life quietly appearing as an expression of impermanence. For it is the cycle, the yin to yang, birth to death, sadness to joy, ignorance to wisdom, health to sickness, success to failure, that is the core of all things. That is the Tao, though in speaking of it, it whispers, and in not speaking of it, it is the loudest sound of all.
|Split Tree Trunk, Volunteer Park, Seattle WA,|