Today, I will have the pleasure of paying a visit to countless places, events, people, thoughts, and feelings. I can think of myself as a free-lance wayfarer, stopping by now and then to visit with the various miracles of this world. I may occasionally stay awhile somewhere – maybe our sunny sunroom, and perhaps an especially peaceful place on the trail we will walk this morning. And I will not be the only wayfarer today. Thoughts will be arriving to visit with me all day – thoughts of all shapes and powers, stopping by to say hello and then move on – unless I ask them to hang around and share their wisdom. Feelings, too, will find a place to pause and visit inside me, and then quietly flow away, unless I find myself fascinated by them. Sunshine of some style or other will be continuously popping in for visits, and the sky will be a steady and friendly sojourner hour after hour. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been getting more and more excited about all the visits I can make today, and all the interesting visitors who will call on me. Looks like this will be a day of dropping in and stopping by. Good for me – and good for the world!
When worries and fears come my way – and it happens often – nothing comforts me more than the realization that I have a warmhearted and durable relationship with everything in the universe – everything. I am an eternal member of the boundless association called Life. All of the hundred trillion cells that make up my body have a kinship with the most ancient stars, and thus so do I, and all the atoms of oxygen I’m breathing in right now connect me with all the places they have visited in their billions of years of existence. The Universe is an alliance of endless numbers of ‘friends’, all as interconnected as my fingers are to each other and to my hands – and I am a vital and everlasting member of that alliance. The same words I speak today are being spoken even now around the world among numberless people, and all the feelings I will have today have been – and will be – felt by countless other people forever and ever. There’s no way I can avoid or break the relationship that exists between seemingly small and separate ‘me’ and the vast universe. We – meaning every person, squirrel, drop of water, and star above – are all members, forever, of the eternal partnership called Life. Fears and worries have very little power in the presence of such an authoritative and friendly confederation!
Today – like all days – will be a day of elegance. There will be style in the smallest actions – in our cat’s suave meowing, in the swanky sounds from the humidifier, in the fashionable sway of tree limbs in passing winds. Each brand-new moment will have a graceful neatness in it that is perfect for that singular moment – and all the moments will have an opulence that will flow over and through me with poise. Even if sadness arrives, I hope I’ll be aware of the kindness that will also be arriving, from within and outside me, to help me work with the sadness in a gentle but brave way. Even if tragedy somehow comes, the vast dignity of skies and sunsets and sunrises will be shining around and inside me to show me the way to healing and peace. Whatever happens, good or bad, all day long my breath will fashionably come and go, my old fingers will bend with elderly flair, and thoughts will grandly promenade through me. And all of this through no effort of my own. Our universe is a swanky and affectionate dancer. It lives each moment with sumptuousness and polish, and thus, so do I – though I sometimes have no awareness of it. I get lost, now and then, in a feeling of the messiness and confusion of life, but I’m hoping I will participate today with panache in the tender and sophisticated whirls and twirls of each elegant moment.
I sometimes think the greatest questions in life concern wisdom: Where does it come from? How is understanding made? Where do I go to find new ideas? Thoughts seem to be constantly pouring into me, but how? and where from? What I often realize, now in my 80’s, is that I should simply love these glorious questions without worrying about answers. What’s important is that wisdom is waiting for me, always and everywhere. Like a gracious, all-loving wizard, insight welcomes me in every new instant. Fresh thoughts seem to continuously follow me, moment after moment, ready to completely enliven my life. From my kindergarten days, I have wanted to be a ‘smart’ guy, and now, in my refreshing old age, I see that ‘smartness’ moves through the universe like winds through trees – with ease and solemnity and sovereignty – and that I am actually a part of this boundless wind. The amazing truth is that I don’t have to ‘find’ wisdom, because it’s always sailing inside me, and I inside it. All of us – all humans and mountains and squirrels and skies – are breezes within the wind of wisdom. We don’t have to find it, but just see it and be it.
My life has sometimes felt like an endless traffic jam – as if I’m stalled amidst countless obstacles, trying to go somewhere but getting nowhere. It’s been so easy to feel befuddled and bottlenecked, like I’m living a totally sidetracked, jam-packed life. However – lucky for me – there are times now, in my 9th decade, when life seems to actually be a wide-open highway rolling freely toward limitless horizons, and I’m just peacefully passing along as freely as a cruising pleasure car. These are occasions when life feels like a clear, unclogged expressway welcoming me to move freely and effortlessly along, through problems and victories and sorrows and delights. What I’ve learned is the fortunate fact that all the slow-downs and stalls in my life are caused onlyby my own thoughts. Life itself is an infinitely widespread road that leads in endless directions toward boundless truths and wonders, and only my own thoughts can throw me off course and set me in a relentless traffic jam of fears and worries. The flawless and free highway of life is always here, ready to transport me on adventures that, be they happy or sad, can always be magnificently rewarding. I just have to have the car of my thoughts washed and tested and ready to roll.
It’s fun to come back, now and then, to the amazing truth that life – including me and all of us and everything – is incredibly and beautifully elaborate. The word derives from old Latin words meaning ‘to work out’, and indeed, the life everything is living is carefully and exquisitely worked out, moment after startling new moment. Each instant is an intricate, inextricable creation of an infinite wizard called The Universe, and I, like all of us, am precisely at the center of this handiwork. Unfortunately, I sometimes am unable to see the radiance of the design, and thus I get lost in what seems to be nothing but puzzlement and disarray. The truth is, though, that at each moment, the virtuoso Universe is embellishing a lovely life for us, including me, and I simply need to see myself as part of this everlastingly fresh and elaborate work of art. When I visit an art museum, I am sometimes lost in amazement at the beauty of the creations, and maybe I should be more often spellbound by the elegant patterns in each commonplace, magnificent moment of life.
When I was a boy growing up in a traditional Christian church, I was taught that the word ‘redeem’ referred to the saving of ‘sinners’ from eternal punishment, but now, in my pleasant and wiser old age, I understand the word in a very different way. It derives from an old Latin word which meant ‘buy back’, and I now see that, in a sense, I am ‘bought back’ every single moment – bought back by the eternal present moment from seemingly all-encompassing worries and fears. Right now, as I’m sitting at my computer and typing these words, all of my material concerns are being redeemed – exchanged, or swapped – for the shining, brand new light of the present moment. It’s as if I’m at the counter of the universe’s mega-store each moment, returning a phony belief about the restricted and scary nature of life, and receiving, in exchange, the truth about life’s free-wheeling, boundless, and lavishly generous nature. Perhaps this store is called HEREANDNOW, and look! – here, right now, comes young 81-year-old me out through the door with a smile almost as wide as the sky, pleased that he has, once again, redeemed fears and worries for a boundless life of peace and patience and – best of all – everlasting presence.
The word ‘beam’ strikes me as being very useful in understanding the meaning of life. It helps me realize that all of life – the Universe itself – is constructed with incredibly rock-solid beams that reliably hold everything up – everything – more solidly and beautifully than the grandest castles. These are not material beams, made of stone or steel, but the beams of vast, non-material, unassailable substances like love and calmness and courage. Material beams, no matter how sturdy, can bend and break, but what force can defeat the powers of infinite kindness and boundless serenity? Buildings may collapse and cities be blighted, but composure and perseverance can smile and stay quietly steady. Hatred may bark and try to bite, but unconquerable friendliness can always reach out a hand in all-encompassing companionship. Truly, the boundless, non-material beams that forever support life are holding me up right now with unflagging force. I just need to open my eyes and my heart and see how heavy-duty and hard-wearing all of life truly is.
I used to think the word ‘glory’ applied only to things like sunsets and distant mountains and misty rainbows, but as my 81 years have passed, I’ve slowly come to see glory everywhere, and in everything. What is more glorious than the softly glowing computer screen on which the words I’m typing now are stepping along in unison? And what deserves more praise than my elderly fingers dancing in their trusty, free-and-easy ways on the computer keyboard, or the soft and splendid music the furnace is making below me in the cellar? I see grandeur beside me in a small glass full of pens and pencils, sitting silently and shining in the lamplight, and there’s a strangely wondrous splendor in the sounds from the washer softly cleansing our clothes down the hall. And nothing should be honored more than this simple but stunning moment, right here and now – a spectacle that never ends, is always with us – this precise moment, right now, in its dazzling light. I look again, and here it is, even now, the present, right here, in all its pomp and beauty. I say let us praise the glory of the ever-present present moment, which is everywhere and everything!
I have often experienced the pains of hardship – thankfully, nothing truly devastating, but just the feeling that I was woefully floating nowhere. Truly, as the word suggests, it felt like I was on a ‘hard’ ship drifting through stiff, tough waters. Looking back, however, I can now see that I actually placed myself on that ‘hard’ ship, and allowed it to steer me into the wildest waves. Yes, unfortunate events happened in my life, but it was always me who jumped on board and called them ‘hard ships’. I turned adversities into out-of-control boats, and misfortunes into leaky dinghies – and I, poor me, was the ill-treated but valiant sailor. What I now understand is that I could have easily turned each of these hardships into a surprising prosperity. Instead of seeing difficulties and misfortunes as ‘hard’ ships and struggling with them, I could have easily seen them as strong, well-built vessels, and sailedwith them, and learned valuable lessons as we traveled together. It’s always – always –my choice when facing tribulations: wrestle with them and get dog-tired and despondent, or go with the flow and maybe find some fresh – and maybe even inspiring– horizons for my life.