Growing Older

"Sit, be still, and listen, because you're drunk

and we're at the edge of the roof"

- Rumi

It seems that nature does not care about us as individuals. So much of what we call our life

is instinctual; so many have done the same patterned thing and like any other in the herd,

we ran and mated and fought when everyone else did. 

 

When we were young, our bodies flushed with hormones, things were new, exciting, sexy interesting and attractive. We pushed our limits, eating and drinking almost anything we wanted and we would still be more or less OK the next day. But now things have changed.

 

Getting older gives me the fall perspective to write this - I was intoxicated, with idealism, romance, sex, entertainment, girls, adventure, yoga, God and the seeking for all of it.

 

But now, after the party has gone on all night, these early morning hours seem different.

The girls look tired and plain, their make-up is smeared and smudged. They are no longer intoxicated, innocent, smooth, sweet, alluring and entertaining. Like me, they too had expectations that were not met and are not be able to be. The girls have turned to women and all of this happened to us men as well. We adventured boldly until our ship hit some rocks and the bilge began to leak. We pursued the objects of our desire; we got to the top of the ladder and realized it was against the wrong wall, what we thought so incredibly important, we hardly even think about, more concerned with the holes that have been ripped in the once-swelling sails of our idealism all the while our body inevitably

weathers and ages.

 

 

I paid rent for many years in the city, but now, I left my house and business and wandered out into a desert. When I look back at the ‘party’ of my youth, even when it seemed to be about God and other ideals, it was mainly about passion for something other than the desires of sex and pleasure, in other words, it was always all about myself. Now that I have sobered up some, I see I was drunk on hormones, nature’s way of getting man to procreate and there was not that much love about much of it. I was wearing the 

rose-colored glasses of intoxication; I was stupidly amazed as the world became rosy.

 

What I thought was passionate aliveness, my attraction to the form, voice and nature of women has changed to just an older man out in the desert, looking at the distant lights of

the young drunks and desiring couples loudly partying before a sad dawn. Now, I feel the heat

of the sun of aging and the chill of nights where everything is despair and I know those

who went before me, must of passed this same way as they walked out into the desert

before they died.

 

I must discipline myself if I am to survive out here in this wasteland. Nature has changed her investment plan as far as this body is concerned, I am past the prime of my youth. I am no longer amongst the best breeders. I am more sober. Life demands other fruits from my orchard; I cannot even indulge myself very much without feeling uncomfortable, I have become intimate with consequences previously unknown and not desired.

 

I still see the same temptations, I recognize the same attractions - the seeds of everything I was once attracted to still persist, but it is all in a different light, as different as fall is from that of spring and these seeds rarely sprout into new growth; need I get involved in another relationship with a younger woman?

 

I no longer live in the Hawaiian vacationed, lush tropical rainforest of bright colored flowers, floating in a green abundant forest of jungle and a warm swimming perfectly blued ocean, walking next to a white sandy beach; I no longer merely watch the astounding colors of sunset while the soft night air sings of desired bodies.

 

No, I see another road, leading across a dry desert to an indefinable horizon, littered with bodies of dreamers and ruins of dreams. No one who went this way ever came back.

 

Like those who wake after being drunk, they are embarrassed and that is true of me as well. I did not really believe (to the point of changing my actions) that I would pass into the

desert of old age, disease and death. I was interested in God, Liberation, meditation and Religion. I read the great texts. I went to great teachers. But, embarrassingly, such things

did not change my understanding of life, except superficially.

 

My Great Teacher, Adida Samraj, called ‘Hearing’ as getting the ‘point’ of life - “You cannot become happy. You can only Be Happy.”  . . . that sounds like mere trite philosophy and will always seem to be that, until we wake up from the party.

 

Have you ever flown on a plane? Every time, at the beginning of the flight, there is a 5-minute review of all the things you are supposed to do in the event of an emergency. Oxygen masks, emergency exits, water landing, how to brace for a crash. But these things are only background noise until something goes wrong with the plane and then you wish you had paid closer attention so that it made a difference.

 

There is something wrong now with the flight of my life; I did not pay attention to what I heard and this plane has begun the inevitable, spiraling descent to old age and death; and that is why I am embarrassed. I am not alone in this, almost none of us paid attention. All we have is excuses. The party had some very interesting moments and now they are mere pictures in a scrapbook, memories capable of but a moment's distraction.

 

I feel a sense of responsibility to turn around to those who have not yet felt this desert heat and tell them what it is like out here. Like a ‘designated driver,’  I am somewhat more

sober, I have made mistakes and I can warn others, but most are not interested and do

not believe what I say and cannot make much of it, because they are intoxicated.

 

How can I tell a young person, that much of what they feel is just the world colored with hormones? How can I tell them that they are like a drunk, intoxicated? How can I tell them, that drink will eventually make them sick or what they have gained will be taken away in a few or many years; that this will happen to everyone?

 

These are the sort of things that I hear in the desert. The silence is vast with possibility and ringing with the dead ends of lifetimes.

 

Sometimes I think I have been blessed; I have heard the teaching of the Great One, I am not lost altogether, I just have not realized what I believe. But belief is not enough. My hope is just that- hope, it is a dangerous river to fall into.

 

As I write this I am 68 years old. Old age, as they say, is the least expected of things to happen to a person. Most of what I write about happened years ago.

 

There is a difference between someone when they are young and someone of my age. I began to feel it about the age of 50. It is difficult to describe and feels useless to speak about, like telling a very young person about romantic love. They will know it themselves only after they experience it and then it will be too late, they will already have gone over the falls and plunged deep into some revulsion or flowery commitment to one or another illusion that will inevitably end in separation or pain.

 

Once, I went camping in the high backcountry of Yosemite in the winter of heavy snowfall.

I had purchased snowshoes and wearing a down jacket, cap and boots with warm socks

and toting a heavy pack, walked up into the high country bowl of mountains to a frozen McCabe Lake, which was covered with snow. I made camp there pitching my tent under the bough of a tree near a small rise by the lake. The spot had been protected by the overhang of the branches and the winds had not blown much snow there. The evening fell quickly, the black night descended and was very, very cold and very silent. All that I wrote above is what I heard there . . . there is no other place to go.

 

When ignorant people see someone who is old, they are disgusted and horrified, even though they too will be old someday.  I thought to myself:  I don’t want to be like the ignorant people.  After that, I couldn’t feel the usual intoxication with youth anymore.

When ignorant people see someone who is sick, they are disgusted and horrified, even though they too will be sick someday.  I thought to myself:  I don’t want to be like the ignorant people.  After that, I couldn’t feel the usual intoxication with health anymore.

When ignorant people see someone who is dead, they are disgusted and horrified, even though they too will be dead someday.  I thought to myself:  I don’t want to be like the ignorant people.  After that, I couldn’t feel the usual intoxication with life anymore.

- Buddha

at least I had company . . .