I take back everything I said last winter: I love Ohio.
I realized last week with a start that I had, for over 12 years, assumed that I was not long for this world: in 2002 I had a stroke and nearly died. Then a few months later I had heart surgery. I assumed ever since that my time was not long. I agonized about leaving my young wife a widow, with a bunch of small kids. But a lot of time has passed, and people generally tell me that I look and act much younger than my years, despite all that has befallen me. It came to me, walking the route, musing, that it is entirely possible, given the advances of medical science, especially cardiology, and my natural vitality, that I could live to be 100. That I might have 40 years of life and new experiences had not occurred to me before. Of course, I could die writing this post, but the futility of wasting energy worrying about an imagined future, or lack thereof, really hit me.
Indeed I have been thinking much about how much time I have wasted worrying about things that never came to pass, or fretting about things quite ephemeral in the great scheme of things. It occurs to me that we have only a finite amount of consciousness in this lifetime, and it grieves me that I have wasted so much of it on foolishness and stress.
My (Future) Magnum Opus
My job, carrying mail, is a sort of walking meditation. After doing this work as long as I have it takes very little attention to do it well. For the most part my mind is free to wander, to ponder, to take in the beauty of the parade of seasons. Being a hick philosopher, I have written a lot in my head, only a little of which ever makes it onto the blog. I have decided that if I ever retire, and especially if I have many years, that I want to write a number of treatises. The tentative titles:
The Primacy of Being
Being and Construct: A Phenomenology of Religious Experience and Praxis
Being and Revolution: Toward Ontological Justice
If God is Good and Loves Humanity: The Implications
Holiness and Assholiness: A Moral Theology
Toward a Hermeneutic of Beauty
I also want to write a transparently autobiographical novel and a few volumes of poetry…
Aging and Illusion
All last winter my back, neck and shoulders ached constantly. I intended to go to the chiropractor, but put it off, as previous visits had offered only moderate relief. I resigned myself to the inevitable: life from here on out would be accompanied by physical pain. I handle pain pretty well, so this was not devastating. It was more matter-of-fact, and I accepted it.
But somewhere along the line, after The Awful Winter had finally passed, I noticed that the pain was now insignificant. Analyzing it, I realized that all that long cold winter I had been hunching my shoulders and tensing my neck in a purely physical reaction to the freezing temperatures. Of course my muscles were tense. As the seasons changed and I stopped hunkering against the cold my muscles relaxed and my pain all but disappeared.
Again I had viewed something as an inevitable and unshakable burden which turned out to be a passing trial.
The Problem with Aging
Besides accepting as inevitable what is not, like dying soon or living in constant pain, one thing that tends to happen as we age is that we become jaded to the good and the beautiful around us to the point that they are barely visible. Meanwhile, we get worn down by the evil and the ugly, which appear huge and overwhelming. I don’t mean that I never noticed beauty or goodness; if you read this site regularly you know that is not true. But it is too easy to be consumed with care, oppressed by life’s disappointments, with the Beautiful an occasional welcome respite, instead of the constant reality that permeates our lives. The Creation is in fact saturated in goodness and beauty, an occasionally hidden reality made manifest to this aging mailman by this glorious Spring.
Art by Vincent Van Gogh