Like almost everyone, I’ve always enjoyed having good things happen immediately, and I realize more and more clearly now that the very best and newest things always happen immediately. A brand new moment, for instance, always happens right now, instantly. There’s no waiting involved. Instantly and always, a fresh and unsullied moment rises like an amazingly new sun. Even in the midst of sorrow or disappointment, I can be blessed, right there and then, with a new, state-of-the-art moment. In a flash, too, a thought of kindness can come to me, with no delay at all – as if, like a magician, I can clap my hands and, presto, a generous thought will throw itself like starlight across my mind. The truly good things in life, I realize now, never have to be waited for. Contentment, for instance, is always quietly by my side, ready for me to see and accept it, and peacefulness, here and now, endlessly flows along in my bloodstream. At every instant, immediately and always, breathing sings a good song in my chest. All I have to do is stop all my waiting, and just listen.
My line of work is the same as the stars. I shine because the universe shines, and I’m here and there because the universe is here and there. My profession, in these elder years, is participating in each moment with old fervor and fire. I find, now, that I have the talent of majestic mountains: I can be beautiful by just standing still. My skills come from my body’s cells, as numberless as stars and always displaying the dazzling workmanship of eons. Any cleverness I seem to have is the cleverness of all of creation. I create the way stones and tree limbs and snowflakes create. My expertness is the same as that of winds and rolling rivers and specks of dust on desks. If I have any virtuosity, it’s the same that sorrow and gladness display, and my knack for making poems is no different than the artistry of breezes moving among branches. The talents I have are loaned to me by the universe, and I humbly accept them with thankfulness.
I used to think that joy was something so special that it could be experienced only occasionally, in exceptional circumstances, but now, in my 8th decade of life, I see more clearly that even the most commonplace situations can be joyful ones. Even my chest rising and falling in the customary process of breathing is a delight to observe, and the sight of my fingers tapping out these words on my computer keyboard brings me sincere gladness. Later this morning, I will open a new jar of blueberry jam, and perhaps I should do it with real elation, simply because I can do it, and because the jar is beautiful to look at, and because my breakfast toast-with-jam will be beyond delicious. Euphoria doesn’t have to be limited to rare occasions. Each moment that I am somehow and mysteriously alive and breathing is a time for exuberance. Each thing I see – a yellow pencil on my desk, a green cup full of coffee, the red sleeves of my old sweatshirt, tree limbs being lazy in winds – can bring something close to bliss. And even when sorrow comes, I can have the quiet and private joy of accepting the sorrow and trying to learn from it. Life can be hard, yes, but in the midst of the hardness, there’s always the softness of the sky overhead, which can be a cause for silent, humble exultation.
I used to think that I am ‘able’ to accomplish many tasks, but now, in these elder years of my 80’s, I realize that it’s not some separate ‘I’ that is able, but the vast Universe itself, and what is called ‘Hamilton’ is simply a lucky ripple in the Universe’s gifted and infinite flow. The word ‘able’ derives from the Latin word ‘habere’, which means ‘to hold’, and indeed, this splendid universe holds countless talents that easily swirl through me as life glides along. I seem to be able to write interesting paragraphs and poems, but it’s actually the Universe – Life itself – that holds the ability and lets it stream through me in order to fairly easily set words on the computer screen. The Universe is skillful beyond measure. By itself, it makes my breathing, and the look of light on lawns and trees, and the shine of all the stars, and the soft, astonishing explosion of each new moment. There is no finer talent than my body’s cells’ ability to breathe and build my life anew each moment – and the ability does not belong to me, but to the Universe itself. I live a masterly and accomplished life, yes, but only because I’m lucky to be a swirl in our endlessly qualified and capable Universe.
A good synonym for the word ‘life’ might be ‘surprise’, because that’s exactly what life is – a constant, astonishing surprise. Of course, only occasionally do I notice this aspect of life, the way each moment softly breaks open with a fresh, first-hand bombshell. Life can sometimes seem tediously predictable, like the ‘same old stuff’ moment after moment after moment, but underneath all the seeming staleness of everyday life there lies a whole universe of unforeseen surprises. In fact, each moment of my life, today and everyday, is a total revelation – a thunderbolt of unconditional novelty. 5:20:07 a.m. – right now as I write – should take my breath away with its newness. Nothing like it has ever existed in the billions of years of the universe – and the same is true for all the moments forever. I should probably always look dumbfounded and dazed, enough to make Delycia say, with concern, ‘Are you okay?’, to which I could respond, ‘Yup. Just totally astonished by the surprises, as usual.’
I like to think of each day as a tournament, a quiet and welcoming competition to see what prizes might be won. In this ‘tournament of life’, everyone is always a winner in some way or another, always reaping surprising – and sometimes unnoticed – rewards and prizes. Each moment is a championship round, and everyone and everything is a winner – all people, rays of sunshine, small insects, passing winds, wild foxes. Somehow, in this endearing tournament of everyday life, all the moments are champions, and each competitor takes home a trophy. I like to listen for the cheering of the crowd – branches of trees and shadows on lawns praising the winners, houses and stores smiling as the champions – which are all of us – parade by. This day, like all of them, will be a peaceful, astonishing contest where every competitor, whether a leaf or a cloud or a mom or a meadowlark or me, will take home a trophy.
For most of my life, the word ‘get’ has been given more importance than it deserves. My life too often seemed to be about lack – not enough money, not enough comfort, not enough fun. I seemed to be always trying to get something – get peace of mind, get more security, get a solution to a problem, get another snack. Fortunately, though, at the slowly awakening age of 80, I’m seeing more clearly that ‘have’ is the word that describes my life far more accurately than ‘get’. The truth is that I have measureless wealth, though not the dollars-and-cents kind. I have, inside me, access to all the love and peace and patience a person could possibly need (even though I only occasionally make use of it). I have, at this very moment, limitless vistas of thoughts and feelings that are constantly shifting and flowing, the way sunrises and sunsets do. Best of all, I have, at all times, the company of the wondrous, always brand-new present moment, a friend that will always be my loyal colleague. Tell me, why would a guy who has so much need to get anything?
My expectations for each day should probably be completely without boundaries, for I have absolutely no hints about what might happen. Though I rarely realize it, a fresh, free-flowing world is made for me each moment, and it’s always as immeasurable as the sky. Who can really know what will happen in the next new moment? Life is like an endless wind that blows wherever it wishes and takes me along for the fun of it. My only expectations should be that the wind of life will keep whisking me along to somewhere and anywhere. I guess I should always be eager with expectancy, waiting for the curtain to be pulled back on another implausible moment, another wholly new world and life. I should be tense with expectation each moment, like a birthday boy opening the next in a never-ending line of gifts. Of course, these moment-by-moment gifts will not always make me ‘happy’, but they will definitely make me a new guy in a newly gifted world. That’s an expectation I can count on.
I sometimes see myself as an eternal tourist, a sightseer on a constant and marvelous holiday. After all, the world that I, and all of us, live in is a breathtakingly beautiful ‘country’ full of amazingly lovely skies and streets and evenings and people and polar bears and bright dust on desks. Even in our darkest hours and dreariest places, there’s beauty to behold – just in the way faces, even furious and sorrowful ones, always seem sincere, and in the way water softly settles in the lowest place in the sink, and in the way wind always has no trouble traveling where it wishes. I am a lucky traveler, all day and every day. I can stop and visit this special moment and that one. I can explore the look of sunlight on cups at the breakfast table, the graceful way a washcloth drapes over a faucet, the ceaseless flow of the river of feelings and thoughts inside me. I am a daily explorer who gets lucky views of smiles on faces at the grocery store, who hears the graceful and special sounds of footsteps on the carpet in his house, and who witnesses, over and over, the wonder of a new moment making its appearance. Each day, whether a sad one or a blissful one, is an astonishing spectacle, and I am a respectful and appreciative sightseer.
I need guidance every moment – where to go, what to do, what to think and feel – and it’s comforting to know that it’s always there – here – for me. In every moment of every day, careful and detailed instructions await me. All I have to do is pause, stay still, and stay open, and the necessary advice will start silently speaking. The strange and marvelous truth is that I live in a universe that’s replete with helpful thoughts. There are countless stars in the sky, and there are limitless, immeasurable thoughts drifting here and there, waiting for me to need them. The only problem is that this ‘me’ is usually so lost in its small, separate, self-centered world that it doesn’t see or hear the simple, far-spreading guidance that’s always ready to help. Today, though, could be different. Today I might keep my inner ears open and alert for the helpful suggestions of the universe. The stars are always shining, and so are the tips and hints of our always supportive cosmos.