When I was a kid -- maybe in the second grade -- my mother once overheard me playing cowboys and indians in the basement with a friend. I was acting the part of the voice-over that could have been part of one of the movies I loved going to on Saturday afternoons. And my mother heard me say, "Now it's ten years later and we're all grown up."
All grown up. Anyone who has grown up knows there's no such thing as growing up, but you can't tell that to a kid who yearns to do grown-up stuff like driving a car or staying up late or being tall or ... well, whatever it is s/he isn't allowed to do now.
As a kid, mom and dad are grown-ups. Their friends are grown-ups. Teachers are grown-ups. Cops are grown-ups. And as the kid gets older, the list of grown-ups grows. The boss is a grown-up, someone skilled in a desired expertise is a grown-up ... there is always someone who is a grown-up in a world where we are still kids. Kids are the ones who have stuff to attain, to learn, to aspire to, to change into, to be applauded for. Kids R Us: In polite terms, it's called learning and you're "never too old to learn."
Perhaps it is just my age, and perhaps others have run across it sooner than I did, but I think there comes a day when you wake up and realize that just as there is no such thing as grown-ups, there is also no such thing as a kid. You wake up and realize that -- right, wrong or indifferent -- you are the boss. Given a lifetime of kids and grown-ups, it can come as something of a jolt: There are no more heroes; this is it; and, besides something of a surprise, it can feel as if you had lost your moorings.
I was thinking about this in terms of spiritual endeavor and how anyone might start out with high hopes and bright lights. Texts and temples and really wise people that pointed the way. When I grew up, that's what I wanted to attain, but in the meantime, before I grew up, someone or something else held a candle in my darkness, offered hope to my confusions, painted pictures of what it might be like to be tall or drive a car.
And then, all of a sudden, as it seemed, I was just stuck with the candle.
I was thinking of this when reading someone's words describing this or that about spiritual adventure -- finding meaning and importance and candlelight and grown-ups. There was nothing wrong or mistaken in it, but it was someone else's candle...bright, inviting, inspiring, important, auspicious. And I sort of wished I could re-enter that realm, a realm full of kids and grown-ups. It is reassuring and cozy, even when there are difficulties to face.
And I don't mean to don some mantle of understanding or wisdom by saying there are no more heroes, no more grown-ups. It's nothing special, but makes me think more of the leaves on a tree in summertime ... each bending to some warming wind. Each leaf is a grown-up leaf, complete in all its completeness, complete in all its fragilities and flaws, complete in its potent green-ness. Each leaf shares with the next what cannot be shared. Each leaf is a friend to the next, yet each speaks a unique language that is compatible and yet ... well, this leaf is the boss; this leaf drives the car; this leaf is the perfect teacher ... like it or not, the PERFECT teacher.
From a kids-and-grown-ups point of view, it's odd being the boss, odd and sometimes a little scary ... no leaf wants to mislead its companions. And using the word "boss" is a little misleading because a "boss" suggests someone who lords it over or is more powerful than someone else. Maybe it's more like, no one is in charge because everyone is in charge. I'm not talking smarm, here. See if it's true. Find out.
See the warm breeze nudge and travel through the leaves. Who's in charge here? Is anyone hoping it's ten years later? Is anyone looking back with regret? Moms and dads and bosses and employees and gurus and disciples and grown-ups and kids and all the leaves at ease and easy with each other. It's not as if anyone could be responsible or elude responsibility ... it's just easy. Who's in charge?
Warm wind, blue sky, summer sun ... who's in charge here?