My Old Age
With some pride and sense
of accomplishment, I'd like to claim membership in "the three score and
ten" fraternity. I was born on February 22nd, 1935. I'm healthy,
comfortable, occasionally happy, married to a loving woman, have good friends.
Yet I long for some noble deed that would fulfill my life, and be a fitting
climax to a life well lived. Ultimately what interests me the most
is this unmapped territory that I am currently traveling through: old
When did it happen?
It wasn't when my body
began to feel like an old car that wouldn't start, that needed frequent
tune-ups and a new paint job. It was when I began to lose interest
in life. The usual stuff - going out to movies, parties, books, even
the morning newspaper - began to pale. Such things just didn't interest
me anymore. One day I realized that I was no longer in the game.
I needed to find a new game, something beyond the stuff I had spent
my life doing. The problem was what. And one other thing that
I was aware of: I wasn't sure I had enough gas in my tank.
One day sitting in the sun (it's a thing old men do), I concluded
that I had moved into a place that I had never been before, a place frightening
and challenging. I was old. So what did that mean? I decided I should
get about redefining myself and see what was possible. More than anything I realized I needed to bring forward every bit of creative
energy and imaginative planning I could muster to make this part of life
the pinnacle of my time on earth. I found myself excited at the prospect.
I sit at the
kitchen table, coffee mug warming my hands, the early morning sun
burning the mist off of the garden. I realize once again what my life
It is not simply moving out of the world of work, stuff, day-to-day routine.
It is about entering
another dimension that is larger than the human. I can
sense its reality in my longing for something more that will fulfill my
life. A deep and personal fervour that it is possible
for me to step into this realm gives my life purpose.
Although I have intimations what form it will take, it has yet to be
If there is any clue to what comes next it will come from my
“patron saint”, that odd duck who heads off to
joust at windmills, Don Quixote de la Mancha, the hero of
The old man bored with his weary
living cocooned in the care of a scheming niece, runs away and declares
himself a Knight Errant. Forsaking the real world, our hero rides
off into a fantasy world
that is far larger and more wonderful than the dusty room he has
given by his niece’s husband. And so begins one of
the most endearing
romps in all of Western literature.
I want such a romp. And
if the price is to let go of reality, well then, no great loss.
it is real or imaginary does not matter. This Quixotic realm is where I am taking myself.
It will not be the place where a Knight Errant rights wrongs and finds
his true love, Dulcinea.
It will be within a mystical realm that allows me
to be a different kind of lover. One who is able to love the world as it is. One
who can love everyone he meets and bless all whom he encounters.
This is what I wish for myself - to put myself in such a world. For me it would be as exotic and fantastical as anything that Don Quixote could conjure up. To leave this weary, rational world of day-to-day reality, this is
my quest. To enter this realm of impossible dreams, this is my
Two a.m. - I lie in
bed looking up at the darkened ceiling. The night truth is
The world is dark; my dreams are but the fevered longings of an
old man. Icarus falls back to earth. It is ever thus.
Search as I may, I find myself an old animal who has lost interest in the
world. The limits of my truth are simple. I'm old, world weary
and gripped by a reality that offers only the cold comfort of knowing that as of this moment I'm not yet dead.
How I arrived at this hapless junction, it seems to me, has been the
of living too long, having seen too much, and having been born with a critical mind
that cannot go beyond what it knows to be reality.
Would that I had been content
within the rich fabric of my old beliefs of god and heaven. Would that
the cruel eye of my questioning mind had kept from me the limits of my
Would that I had not teased myself with expectations of what
Self Pity and other constructs
for the truth, I ponder the value of my life, wonder what my life has been about. I try to ascertain where I am at
this moment, wonder what might yet come to pass. I force myself to be more than I am capable of being. For some this
might be the great longing that makes us fully human. For me it
feels more like a curse. At the same time, age, body, mind seem
to be saying
that I am much more frail than I like to admit.
I would dearly love to have my life sing with courage and inspiration
and insight into the deep inner divinity of my being. However, one of
mysteries of my life is why after what I thought was a lifetime of
honesty and searching, I am left with the humble truth that I am a
frail being, plagued with longing and self delusion, unable to find
contentment with what I have.
God, how I revel in self pity - all in the name of honesty and
truth. Time to leave such limiting realities behind and once again take
leap into what lies beyond - the world of impossible dreams. But
I had expected this narrative
to be a rich inspiring look into my life as I entered my seventh decade.
Instead I find myself going on and on about my uninteresting and mundane existence. I apologize.
My latter years have put the lie to the optimism of my youth and young
adulthood. I see others around me who seem to be successful, happy
people getting on with their lives. I'm envious. Could I awaken
one morning to a difference sense of myself and the world? This would
be my most fervent wish.
Like Lazarus returned
from the dead, I find myself back in life. The savior who did the
deed of returning me to life was a multitude of friends, who for reasons
I cannot grasp, spoke of their love for me. And so yesterday
it came to pass. In answer to an unspoken prayer, I found myself
washed with affection and penetrated with love from friends.
It is like I have been returned to life. I didn’t know
such a thing would be so easy or so simple.
Still don’t know what this thing called love is, but I sure know how it
has changed things for me. I have at least for this day experienced its mysterious power.
I do "fall off
the wagon" more times than I care to admit. Times I seem to
fall into despair and depression and weariness. I think it
is a part of the territory. However, there have been occasions
when I have experienced these forces of love which are larger than
romantic love or friendship. These interludes
give me some hope that I too may be able to love this
way. I imagine myself in some impossible-dream moment a lover of the world.
And this does not seem totally delusional.
My experience with this
kind of love came about rather accidentally. I found myself alone
in the house for an extended period without phone, television or Internet.
What occurred launched me into an exploration of what I refer to as
a love dust, or as I like to think of it, a golden radiance that I see as filling the space around us. ***
Very briefly, I found
I could generate in my heart an energy that could be extended out to
world. Perhaps it is the opening of the heart chakra, or some
such esoteric event. For me it seemed like this loving heart was
simply an expansion
of humanity's ever evolving capacity. This experience I see now was but
the next step in my life which by intent or DNA or design has been an
theme of my life. I like to think of it as making love.
now believe that the impossible dream I had for myself is
*** All of this happened a
year ago, and can be found at http://webhome.idirect.com/~thepilgrim/Love-Dust.htm
Dollop of Love
And so I decided
to explore this realm of Love. What I required of myself was to once again leave behind all that is
and rational as I go further into this enchanted land. Why?
Because my mind says that conjuring up love and pouring
it out like a gusher of water onto an arid world is the stuff of fantasy. The real
world is one of cause and effect and proof and results.
And yet I
find myself clinging to that wonderful image of my youth when I was
in a religious faith. The Catholic icon of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus pouring out love to the world still represents some mystical
possibility that my adult cynicism finds so hard to accept. And
yet in some profound way I can't help but think that I might be
able to do something similar.
But only if I am
willing to become
some sort of religious nut, some religious version of a Don
I'm too long in the tooth for such nonsense. And yet this is the stuff of my old age - to live impossible dreams.
Can I let myself walk the world seeing myself as some mystical being who
pours out love to all whom he encounters? I would like to play with
I would like to live this dream. I travel the buses, walk the streets of the
city imagining myself like some cosmic millionaire who puts
hundred dollar bills into unsuspecting
people's pockets, blessing people I meet with a large dollop of
watch as they pass from my vision, richer than they were before they
At what point did Don Quixote's fantasy become real for him?
And have I passed that point? For me it is no longer an illusion.
Sometimes my heart aches; often my heart aches. Is it for a
life that in retrospect seems such a disappointment? Is it for
this fragile moment in human existence? Is it for the mess we
have made of the world, and the pain we inflict on so many?
Yes, for all of the above and probably other
things as well. At times awake in some middle-of-the-night hour, my heart aches to breaking, and yet I cannot cry.
I wish that my heart was strong and
able to pump out love to all I meet. But it cannot. Is it
this pain that I must bear? I ache for a world gone wrong. Too often I
turn from this heartache, busy myself with the trivia of my life. But
if ever there was a challenge worthy of who I long to be this is it - to love this
hurting world and all who are in it.
is a grinding inertia being a certain age. I find
it one of the most frightening aspects of growing into old age.
To fight off this life-sucking quicksand I have invented for
myself the concept of a noble deed, some future event that I can look
forward to. For me
this is a necessity to keep me vital and alive. However, while I wait for this moment to come upon me, I like most of my
species, find my day taken up with the mundane and the ordinary.
At an earlier time in my life I was
driven by the urge to mate and procreate.
At the same time the need to succeed and gain position and place within
the herd occupied most of my waking life. All that
Age has no such imperatives. It offers no directives, no sense of purpose. The
terrain can be bleak, arid, dry. It takes an
traveler to explore this country. For me, it is the knowing in some
part of my being
whether from a lifetime of experience or from some deep soul-place
within that there is a treasure to be won that keeps me going. I
know if i can only be true to my quest, that the the end will be worth
Of this I am convinced.
A dream of some import
Once several years ago,
I had a dream that remains with me to this day. A group of people
are in this house. As they turn out the lights in each room, everything
falls into a dark void. I’m shouting, “Stop turning off the lights!”
But the lights keep going out until only the few of us who remain are gathered in one room. Outside there
is a black nothingness. For some reason, I seem to know that the way to bring
back the light is with gold. I ask everyone in the room who has any gold to hold it in their hand.
Everyone it seems has a bit: a gold neck chain, a gold ring, a gold filling.
It might be enough, I think. Wondering how this gold is to be used, I wake up.
Wide awake, i sense that this is a dream of
great significance. There is
something the gold signifies that pertains not just to my life,
but to the all of us living at this moment in history.
Now years later, I have some sense of the
dream's meaning. I'm convinced that this is the inner gold
In a small town north of
Sukota in what was once known as Sumatra, there once was an ancient clay Buddha. Although it was not
a particularly handsome or refined work of art, it had become revered more
for its longevity than its beauty. It had endured violent storms, bitter
winters, invading armies.
At one point
a monk noticed a crack in the weathered clay. Looking closely, he
noticed a flash of gold light as the sun reached into the crack.
Breaking the clay shell revealed a beautiful golden Buddha that had
hidden for years beneath.
This story reflects what I sense has come about in my own life.
More often these days, I realize that the clay and the dross of
my life has
cracked and fallen away, and I find myself left with my essence, a golden
At such moments I feel blessed and joyful and able to celebrate this grace that has come into.my
Finally I come to
that point of just letting it all go: the exploration of
this new territory, the Quixote dream of Lover, the golden age, the
quest for a noble deed. Enough already! Let it
Just be who I am. An old guy with aches and pains, who has had as full
a life as was possible, who can acknowledge that he has done a good job
with what he has come into this world with.
need to stop striving to claim some new territory or
achieve some greater consciousness or special accomplishment to prove
myself worthy. I am that special human who has brought to
that is best within him. Let it be. Can I do that?
Not sure I want to. The dream, the longing are both part of who I am. In truth, I seem to be possessed with some
adamantine urge, best expressed in a few lines from Tennyson’s
“How dull it is to rest, not to shine in use
As though to breathe were life.
Ah no, some noble deed may yet be done
By those who old in body, gray in bead
have fought with gods.”
Visit the sequel
to myoldage, a work in progress that explores what comes after my old
age, which much to my own surprise is a new age. at http://webhome.idirect.com/~thepilgrim/Mynewage.html
Sequel to my old age