Thursday, March 24, 2005

Birthday Musings

I was born 52 years ago today. Since then, I’ve lived an uneventful life compared with most of my peers. Yet, still, I have laughed and cried, loved and hated, acquiesced and rebelled, lusted and despised, found and lost, dreamed and despaired, played and worked, given and taken, helped and harmed, succeeded and failed, lived and died, and now I’m beginning a new life in a new place with a wonderful wife I don’t begin to deserve but will cherish as a gift of divine grace for as long as we have left together in this uncertain world, and then…who knows?

When I was twenty, I didn’t believe I’d live to see thirty. When I was thirty, I was convinced I wouldn’t see forty. When I was forty, I knew for sure that I would never make it to fifty. Now here I am at 52 and counting and grateful for every awful and delightful and indifferent moment with which I’ve been blessed, and looking forward, with a mixture of happy anticipation and anxious concern, to every nanosecond that remains, but paradoxically trying harder to root myself in the here-and-now that my head tells me I can never leave even when my heart is lost in present memories of the past or present anticipations of the future.

Alan Watts used to say that most people mistakenly believe that the present comes out of the past like a plant from its seed when, in fact, the past comes out of the present like the wake left behind a ship. I believe that there is truth in both perspectives. Everything happens in the present, but what happens in the present-that-is-now is shaped by the memories and other effects of the present-that-was. When we see where we’ve been and what happened while we were there, we may be seeing and acting on it in the present, but we are seeing and acting on the present-that-was through a brain and mind conditioned by the present-that-was in a world affected in countless ways by the present-that-was.

Birthdays are an especially good time to look back on the present-that-was to see the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the beauty and the ugliness, and to let that vision of the present-that-was help us to live with more mindful integrity, wisdom, and skillfulness in the present-that-is and the present-that-will-be. Or may be. Will I be here to post another blog entry a year from today? I don’t know. All I know is that I am here now looking back over my 52 years and grateful to still be here today.

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