Last night, in the parking lot, I ran into Don, one of the photographers at the newspaper. Don is a good guy and a good photographer, someone with whom I had worked on a story I had really enjoyed writing ... a guy who was interested in the story and what his photos might add, what the package might look like ... not an ego-tripping 'artiste.' I like Don both professionally and personally.
As we gabbed, he said he had heard I was going to retire. He was a bit surprised. How old was I? And when I told him I was 69, he said without malice, "You're remarkably well preserved."
The line made me laugh. Where once I might have been flattered or offended by some social 'rudeness,' now it was just a funny thing to say. "Well preserved" ... it made me feel like a foetus pickled in a clear-glass bottle of formaldehyde.
What a hoot! Inside, at whatever age, there is always something bright and spunky and full of energetic youth, bouncing around like some cartoon Tasmanian devil, unstoppable and giggling and assured. And yet too ...
Preserved: It made me think of the Hindu triumvirate, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) ... all gods for those inclined to gods, and yet also, more credibly, aspects of this mind and life. We create, we preserve as best we may, and we destroy ... and even if we don't do such things, life will do them for us.
It's not so common to ask who might create such gods, such circumstances, such a lifestyle. Sometimes it is easier to build temples and believe... temples of achievement and failure, belief and worship ... the great and well-coiffed 'me.' Of course I would like to be well-thought-of ... by looks, by accomplishment, by aspects I have created and preserved and encouraged in my life. But then along comes Shiva, like it or not, suggesting through the whispers of time, "The 'me' is extra."
And the eek's set in -- the sense that life is implacable and unkind and indifferent.
The sense that no one cares. The sense that for all the bouncing youthfulness within, things cannot be preserved in the ways I have sought to preserve them with my diplomas or status or bank accounts or beliefs or hair-do's. Somehow, I have gotten things wrong ... and I am being punished. Sometimes I think it is no wonder the Christians have a cowering and devoted following. Save me! If you stop where the eek's set in, then of course temples and sweet words make some sense... preserving, protecting, defending, explaining. Sweet music in the face of sour circumstance.
In the realm of the eeks, whoa mama! All composite things, as the Buddhists say, come apart. But as one of those composite things, somehow I imagined I was exempt. Coming apart was for someone or something else: I just know, based on this youthful something-or-other within, that coming apart can never happen. I...just...know it.
And the odd thing is that the part that 'just knows it' is absolutely right. How can what never came together come apart? This is not just some sexy philosophical or religious question. It is intimate. Check it out. Look around. Everything and everyone 'just knows it,' don't you think? And what is true is not out to punish or reward anyone. What is true is just busy being true ... why would it bother being indifferent or concerned? Isn't what is true just dancing and as peppy as the something-or-other within?
Sure, I will comb my hair and catch a shave and try (unsuccessfully) not to cuss too much and preserve one thing or another to the best of my ability, but preservation is creation and creation is dissolution and dissolution is creation: Isn't it just the truth? And maybe the something-or-other within just knows this ...
And is delighted.