Authority

Theme for February: Resilience

Saturday, February 27, 2021

At the good age of 79, I am still working diligently to develop a sense of authority in myself. Here I’m not thinking of the most common definition of authority – the power to enforce laws, exact obedience, and pass judgment – but of a less familiar meaning – the power of simple and unconquerable confidence derived from experience and practice. This is authority that’s natural, not contrived – authority that’s established gradually from inside a person, not abruptly and artificially from outside. It’s the kind of unpretentious, authentic authority that arises unhurriedly with the passage of time, like a tree that slowly grows stronger from within. I have been hesitantly and clumsily growing as a person for 79 years, and I’m feeling more of this kind of honest authority each year. It doesn’t come from outside – from a successful task completed, or from a compliment from someone – but from inside, from a slowly blossoming sense of understanding and self-assurance. It’s the kind of authority a senior person sometimes acquires simply because they have survived, with audacity and dignity, many decades of study and testing in the school of life. It’s the kind of authority a person feels within themselves when they know, without a shred of doubt, that they will sail through both stormy and sunlit days with high-spirited success. Not always, but occasionally I do sense authority like that inside me, as if I’ve grown steadfast and persistent like a sturdy oak, as if there’s a sort of boundless strength inside me that simply can’t be contested. On those fortunate days, I stay trustworthy and unassuming and strong.

 
BACK TO THE BASICS
 
Once upon a time, a 79-year-old man
fell in love with plainness and simplicity.
He saw trees that seemed unsophisticated
in their loveliness, and the old lamps
in his house seemed lighthearted
in their straightforwardness,
and he said to himself that life at 79
should be like that, 
like a little cloud
lightly passing through an understanding sky
in an unfussy, no frills way. 
He realized
he had become too busy 
with the billion small things in life, 
and had lost sight of
how simple happiness could be. 
He decided to be always satisfied. 
Let what comes, come,
and he would care for it 
in a homespun, meat-and-potatoes way. 
He chose to live an undecorated life, 
like the stones that sit well-pleased in the park
while busy, anxious people pass speedily by,
or like a cloud that is just its basic, pleasant self
while wars and havoc hold sway
in the ambitious, worldly-wise world below.
 
 
 

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