WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Sunday, October 10, 2021

BEGINNING (at 79)

“She said she was just beginning to understand her selfishness.”  — Sarah Orne Jewett, in “Miss Sydney’s Flowers”             

I don’t think I’m any more selfish than the next person, but strangely enough, like Miss Sydney in Jewett’s story, I seem to be just starting, at age 79, to understand my particular type of selfishness. I’m not an unusually greedy person, and I do show a reasonable concern for others, so I don’t think my personal kind of selfishness is especially spiteful. No, what I’m beginning to see is that I am selfish simply because I’m consumed with concern about my “self”, the supposedly separate person I call “me”. I’m starting to appreciate the fact that most of my thoughts have been about this “self”, hoping to either protect it or enhance it or use it to stand strong against others. Somehow, over the years, I’ve nourished the notion that nothing is more important than shielding and strengthening this small, separate self called “me” — and now, almost 80, I’m just starting to understand how irrepressible this preoccupation has become. This, to me, is selfishness of a high order, and it’s something I want to hold up in a light, look at clearly, and then hopefully leave behind. This meager and insignificant “me” which has occupied so much of my time for almost eight decades must be set on the scrap pile where it belongs. The only “self” I want to support and make stronger in my senior-citizen years is the one called “Life”, the  vast, mysterious marvel of which each of us is an indissoluble  part. That would be a commitment, a dedication, worth undertaking, far more praiseworthy than the pledge to protect a silly little “me”.  

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