The endings of endings
"Crunch time turns out to be one of those times when “right” and “wrong” are only two of a handful of possible actions and outcomes. You’d think that getting old enough, and old enough to know better, would serve someone in good stead, that good judgement would prevail. It turns out that getting old is one of those ragged, dissembling crunch times, too. If you wait for the wisdom of age to take over, you often wait in vain." — Stephen Jenkinson, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble
It's a bit tautological.
But in simple terms, what ends when something ends?
I'm thinking specifically of dreams, jobs, relationships and, yes, life?
The last one. Easy. We're no longer here. And then? I'll come back to this.
But take the other three. We go after something because it's the right thing to do; or we can't think of anything better; or we don't pay it much heed. We get it. High fives all round. We've scaled our highest peak. And then what?
It never lasts.
Or the thrill of the climb, or chase, runs dry, becomes brittle and our egoic mind creates something, something better to distract us from paying attention — either to what's going on or at all. It ends, painfully. Not always. Sometimes it's like a phantom limb that we drag around for years. Then? We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and...it begins all over again — the seeking — until, well, we're exhausted and we resign ourselves to never recapturing the sensuous, almost delirious state we had in our younger years. Our heart aches for something still but the desire, passion and grit is all gone, burnt out on the cross of grief, and then? Life passes right through us, and by the time we look up, if we ever do, it's...gone. Finished. Over. Done with.
You might say this is the natural order. Is it? Or should it be?
When do we invite a more beautiful question?
Even if we do, we live inside, if not an old label, a new concoction that we think better fits our extant circumstances. (As an example, you go from entrepreneur to truth seeker. What's that all about?)
As to death, erm, well..., when you're no longer here, you'd think there wouldn't be much to report on but what about everyone else who's left behind? The memories, the stories, the laughs, the tears, the joy and the love? But doesn't everything fade, eventually? Possibly, but then again, apart from a few grainy pictures or digital files, what could you build that might survive beyond one or even two generations? A school bearing your name? A charitable foundation? A body of work? An invention? I don't know but death to most people is so final, so absolute and I understand all of that but given our obsession — and it is, I'm afraid — with being all we can be (which, again, we never question), we never give enough attention to our final demise. Oh sure, we think about death occasionally, but we don't live our life in worship to it as we do our life. It's like a dirigible, hovering out in the ether beyond the ken of our lived experience. What, instead, if we embraced death either in a ceremonial way or as a lived experience, each and every day? I'm not being flippant. I mean it. I know that one day I won't wake up. This isn't melodramatic or dark as my wife says. It's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth Your Honour. In the interim, I don't have to live it forward like some crazed lunatic, squeezing ever more into each nanosecond. Instead, it's to understand the limits, limitations and endings that are my life and not to run in the opposite direction but to see them as important waymarks towards a more resolute, solemn and devotional way of being me — all body, mind and spirit.
Back to the rubric. The quote of Jenkinson — two days in a row Summerhayes! — is no accident. What lies between the chasm we create by only giving ourself two options — yes and no? Lots of humming and hawing? Sure. We're not perfect. But at some stage (and I've been there a few times...), you've got to let go. And it hurts. No, I mean it. We invest a lifetime, or so it seems, of energy and love and it all goes to shit. This has happened twice to me. But do you know what, despite the War stories that it often throws up, I'm a better person for it. That's not right. I am the person I am because of it/them. And I'd like to think (for starters...) a more informed, spiritually nourished person.
You see, when you strip away the conditioning, and you start to ask a few more serious questions than the bushel that have filled one notebook, business plan or counselling session, you (hopefully) realise that there's a space of 'not knowing' where you're ordained to your psyche or spirit. Or to put it another way, when you've dropped all the bullshit and sat in your own juices for long enough, you normally come to realise that the surface flimflam is and wasn't you. Instead, there's a wide-open space filled to the brim with openings. And if you're able to operate from that space — not always instinctual but it often it is — then you don't have to try to be anything, or accomplish anything or turn yourself inside out to please all the great and the good that you think are your fans.
At least that's how it's been for me.
In summary, I understand now, more than ever, why Charles Bukowski, that rascal poet and shit-stirrer, decided to have the words "Don't try" inscribed on his headstone.
Think about it.
Much love, Ju.