Monday, June 23, 2014


Well, my Medicare card arrived in the mail over the weekend. I can tell you that, besides being dumbfounded at the passage of time, it sure does focus the mind - and the heart. It is NOT crazy to start pondering the limits of the years that are left and what one wants to do with them. Thousands of things that seemed so important recede from the list of, you know, what's important. And that, my friends, can be quite liberating.

What do I want to give back to this world for the life I've been given? What do I most feel urgent about passing on from the narrative of my own life's journey?

I posted this quote from Sogyal Rinpoche on Facebook this morning from his book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
"Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn't that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?

"And doesn't this point to something fundamentally tragic about our way of life?"
I've never been big on extravagant external props, which is good because I could never afford them and mostly don't want them, which makes the letting-go that comes with mortality a whole lot easier. I always enjoyed sitting on a mountaintop or walking through the woods or watching the ocean waves roll in more than buying a consumer object or owning lots of property. I don't know how to convey this other than to say it simply - the feeling of being deeply and meaningfully alive is better than accumulating a lot of things that don't last or provide any content to what we call the meaning of our lives.

In other words, don't gather up a lot of noise and activity and stuff because if that's where you find your meaning and sense of identity, mortality is a fearful thing indeed.

Still, no matter how simply we live - by choice or not - we all have props, we all have ways of trying to declare our significance in this crazy world that holds most of us in little regard. We cling to those props hoping they will hold us up. They all ultimately fail because none of them will keep us alive forever.

So - part of my life is writing, and I ask myself what words I can offer to this stripping away that will also come by choice or not as tumultuous changes swirl all around us. It will come. It will come if for no other reason than the many collapses now written into our global economic culture and the planet's ecological reality. Clinging will only make losing those props that much more difficult and wrenching.

Cultures and societies are mortal, too. There is no such thing as the isolated individual. There is no such thing as permanence. So trying to isolate our individual selves and making them permanent is a fool's game sure to bring about a lot of heartache.

And the evidence of the heartache is everywhere.

In this time of enormous transition, we can cling out of fear or let go with courage. These days, in multiple ways, that's the underlying theme of just about everything I write. Maybe that's the Medicare card staring at me, or maybe it's the end of the known and comfortable world that is just out there on the horizon. Whatever it is, I have never felt such an urgency about it, such commitment, such need to put it out there into this deeply troubled world.

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