“Don’t think of this as your first step or last step. Just be here as a piece of life. That is the best way to be. You are not a young man; you are not an old man. You are just a piece of life.” Sadhguru, Life and Death in One Breath
A couple of weeks ago my friend Alena pointed out that what I thought were Alpacas were really Llamas and vice versa. I’m sure she meant well, but I was worried that if I was wrong about this maybe I was wrong about everything.
I forgot about it for a while until this afternoon when I stopped to visit some old friends. There he was, Big Al, staring me down with bright red eyes and a look that told me I was going insane.
Something snapped inside what was left of my mind and I began to lose touch with reality. I started to wonder if I was a man dreaming that I was an Alpaca or an Alpaca dreaming that I was a man.
When I got home and looked in the mirror I saw that my ears looked different and there was hair growing out of them. I was also noticeably uncomfortable wearing sneakers and had a strange craving for a bowl of grass.
The way I see it I have several choices, one is to go back to the funny farm but last time I gained ten pounds and they have limited smoke breaks. Another is shock treatment, which I think I can do at home with a car battery.
The third is to resume therapy, but my therapist is a goat and I think he may be biased. Or I can simply stop photographing animals and shoot trains, which are relatively safe unless they run you over which rarely happens.
I’ve never read The Metamorphosis by Kafka but found this quote which says it all: “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” Thanks Alena.
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.” Basho
“Days, pale slices between nights, they blend, not exactly alike, transparencies so lightly tinted that only stacked all together do they darken to a fatal shade.” John Updike
“It’s not what they built. It’s what they knocked down. It’s not the houses. It’s the spaces between the houses. It’s not the streets that exist. It’s the streets that no longer exist.” James Fenton
I remember this day like it was yesterday, even though it was more than fifty five years ago. I told the photographer the light was bad, the sailor suit was cliché, and that we should ditch the teddy bear. But he just told me to shut up and sit still.
Looking back I can’t help but wonder if this was really me. I mean, I no longer have blond hair and I’m considerably taller. Is any of this person who I am now? Does this happy looking kid still exist in me somewhere? Basically, who the hell am I now at 59?
Sadhguru and many others have said that I am not the body or even the mind, which would make it very hard to choose clothes that fit. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, author of I Am That says that I am not the person I think I am.
But I think E. E. Cummings said it best: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Dammit.
“A fresh attitude starts to happen when we look to see that yesterday was yesterday, and now it is gone; today is today and now it is new. It is like that – every hour, every minute is changing. If we stop observing change, then we stop seeing everything as new.” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” Sylvia Plath
The Buddha (allegedly) said: “From a withered tree, a flower blooms.” But what exactly does that mean? The best explanation I could find is on a site called Zen Dirt. This is from a post called From the Withered Tree:
“In Zen quotes and sayings, we have many reminders of the impermanence of everything. Life, as all things in the universe, exists in cycles and nothing is permanent. Being mindful of non-duality however, means that all things never cease to exist either. From a withered, old, lifeless tree, a new flower blooms, a new life grows. This reminds us of the cycle of life, of how we are all related, elder and young, old and new, and how we are all of the same being.
This quote also speaks of how beauty, new life, and new thoughts can blossom from an otherwise old, lifeless, withered tree. Just because a tree is shrunken and has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the capacity to flower new life from it.
We can interpret this several ways. We can see this as a message that no matter what stage we are at in life, we can always start fresh. It’s never too late to let our lives blossom into a beautiful new flower. There is no such thing as “it’s too late now.”
As we all exist in cycles, we should not underestimate the profound effect of changing our lives and relationships with others. Even at a late stage in life we can positively affect our attitudes and the perspectives of those around us. This can ripple out and create positive energy around the world, or at the very least, the lives of the ones around us.
Another way to see it is simple. We were all young flowers, growing from the fruits of our parents, and we will all grow old, into a withered tree. Flowers may bloom from us, or they may not. This is not just children, the flowers are also seeds of happiness we plant in the hearts and minds of others.”
“You can’t change yourself, nothing can change you: no Primal Therapy, or Encounter groups-nothing. All that can happen is that you can come to accept yourself. You think you are ugly, then be ugly. You don’t like your body, you don’t like your mind-they are you, accept them.
And it is the ego that wants to change, become radiant, enlightened, unique. No one loves themselves. And this is the whole beautiful attitude of the religious man-that nothing can be changed, so eat well, live, enjoy. He doesn’t waste energy fighting against himself. Nothing is wrong but a wrong attitude. You are trying to square the circle-it can be done; if it could, it would no longer be a circle.” Osho
If you have a problem with this you can text or call 717-672-1014, I’m sure they have operators standing by who are experts on change.
“The park grass looked greener, the park benches looked better and the flowers were trying harder.” Charles Bukowski
I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.
Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.
W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.