Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fortune Cookie Zen

Some things were harder, because I was older. As a young man I hiked for days and slept on hard ground, but on the Acres it immediately became clear I needed a bed. My glasses too were insufficient to see the stars, or identify birds and trees at a distance. I felt like Burgess Meredith in the bank vault.

When I was ten I heard tiny bells in the lake when it rained, and thought my father was being difficult when he claimed to hear no such thing. But I haven't heard the bells in years.

And then there was the energy. At 23, teaching in a rural school that demanded three concurrent fulltime jobs of me, I skipped breakfast, lunch, and sleep. If I tried that now, it would kill me.

And, perhaps most debilitating: the passion. Ardent enthusiasm, dogged opposition, throbbing heartbreak. All were inherent in me, then. I live more economically now.

Old people like to claim they're slower to spark because they've gained wisdom. The truth is we're just tired.

Some things were easier. I didn't bore as quickly. Just one of those yearlong days would have broken me at 17; then, an unfilled hour was torture. I lived in the moment at that age, but as if it were forever. No evil undefied, no windmill uncharged. And no time lost to pondering whether windmills were the problem.

Impatience wastes a lot of time.

I'm too worn out for it now. If maturity has a vice, it is this: that it is lazy. Be still, and a multitude of problems solve themselves. But mindfully done, inaction can defeat adversaries action can't. Thus the great insight of age: that any vow can be kept for a hundred days. And those days are meaningless without it. On the Acres I was free of the addictions that ruled me outside: variety, change, external diversion.

Therefore, hermitry is for the young. And for the old. Because you must have both strength and insight. But as you're only ever issued one at a time, you must either manufacture insight from strength, or strength from insight.

Which is the biggest load of fortune-cookie crap when you're out there for days on end, with nothing for company but your own shortcomings.


(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)
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