Saturday, October 2, 2010

barf bag

Today, as I was rising in consciousness from a nap, I made a quasi-decision to be old. I call it a "quasi-decision" because, like other decisions, I am not sure I can stay the course -- stick with the truth, be as mundane as the truth, be as unsalted as the truth.

As a result of this quasi-decision, I have a feeling that whatever interest this blog once held is likely to be diminished. One of the aspects of  "old" is that there is less conflict to be found. The excitements of contrast and debate and meaning -- the stuff found in work and war and love -- slide off the edge of things that were once compelling and concrete and important and there is weakness and slowness and the chiding voice that says you must do something ... the chirping Avon lady.

All of this began, somehow, when I was talking to a nurse who was charged with evaluating my blood. Anne is someone I have seen periodically for quite a while in the wake of heart difficulties. I have come to trust her in ways I trust few doctors and so, the other day when she said, "You have been sick for a long time. Now you look better," it brought me up short.

"Sick?" some voice inside of me wondered. Is that what it was and remains -- "sick?" It never really occurred to me to see it that way. Anne's observation was somehow a surprise. Sure there were symptoms and annoyances and fears, but I never thought of them as "sick." To be sick is to posit wellness, to have a credible point of comparison. I couldn't really find a credible point of comparison. I had been and remain weaker, crankier, less surprise-able, and less willing to point out idiocies in others since everyone deserves a chance to learn from their idiocies... and besides, what could an old fart possibly have to say?

But "sick?"

The world is a place of cause and effect. Various arguments or conclusions can erupt from cause and effect. Cause and effect are important, dontcha know. But with old age, cause and effect have a way of dissolving as well. They are true and important ... but it takes someone younger to care and dissect.

Yes, there is cause.

Yes, there is effect.

But when all is said and done, when the tableau of importance becomes more energetic than its worth...

Yes, there is fact.

Just fact. Sick is just a fact, whatever it means. Old age is just a fact, however much, as a friend of mine once said, "it's so undignified."

But old age has its particulars, and, like Zen practice, deserves its time ... even if it bores the socks off or scares the pants off others. Old age is a dissolving importance in the world and its doings -- a kind of invisibility as far as others are concerned. And then there are doctors and nurses and weakness and pain and paying the price later for some small chore that once would have been nothing at all.

The other day, for example, I cleared channels on either side of the driveway -- channels maybe three inches across and three inches down. I did it with an old hoe -- maybe a hundred feet in soft soil. A chore I had once done as a minor footnote to the day's adventures. No ill effects. No reminders. No effects to speak of. But this time, the next day, you would have thought I had been tossing bags of cement the day before. Oooof!

It would take too much youthful energy to point out the cause and effect of it all.

And it's not just the physical. I get crankier when someone can't way what they've got to say ... period. Stand up, speak up and shut up. I can listen for a while and then my patience gives out. It's as if I can't get enough oxygen and I want a button that says, "OK. I love you. You don't have to keep asking me."

When Shakyamuni Buddha rode out from behind his palace walls as a young man, he saw four sights that put him on the road to what later was called enlightenment. Four sights: Disease, old age, death and a fellow wearing a monk's clothes. I do love that story: It's a great metaphor for anyone's life -- the protective walls, so lovingly constructed, simply cannot stand the test of time, the test of life. Love-it walls, hate-it walls, fear-it walls, long-to-hold-it-unwaveringly walls.

Pretty compelling stuff, pretty compelling sights. Full of cause-and-effect rumination and philosophy and religion and other time-consumers. But these days, I wonder when there is no equal eureka to be found in an autumn leaf or a raindrop or a cranky old person. What the hell is all the excitement if the best you can do is sniff out an endless array of excitements?

Talk about sick.

Anyway, it takes a weight off my shoulders, somehow, just making a quasi-decision to be old. Now don't get snarky and ask me what the hell old might be ... it's a fact like all the others, not especially sexy or surprising in one sense, and yet revelatory in another.

Now, as to whether I can stick to my guns and stick to the facts ... we'll have to see. But this blog is likely to turn into an old fart's barf bag. What the hell -- it's my blog.


  1. I thought for a moment before posting a reply, just to console myself that perhaps what I am posting may be useful. Wasn't a really beautiful weekend, just yesterday my country's founding wife-of-father passed away, and at a ripe age of 88, it was long foreseen that her time was up after her ill-fated stroke two years ago; yet, when the newspapers splashed photos of her once glorious past with her Prime Minster husband, I cannot help but feel grateful for all that they had done.

    Her son, the present Prime Minister, was photographed to be sullen and grief-stricken as he caught the next available flight from Antwerp back to Singapore. He had missed the most important moment, that of being at the bedside during last breaths of his mother.

    Not so far away, my grandmother pines for her Eldest Son who is in Germany with grandchildren. The whole family had shifted to Europe due to work commitments, and I believed that my grandmother was thinking of her turn being next with all the news about demises flashing on TV.

    Amidst all this helplessness and futility, I found a moment of peace thinking of you. That joke a few days ago, perhaps you might have forgotten given your poor memory, was really good.

    I tried to collect my farts in a bag, and although I couldn't paint them green, I gotten confess that grandchildren love to joke about their grandparents' farts, and how horrible they smell.

  2. I don't know how you've managed this blog so many years in the first place!

    I'm also tiring (though it's probably just a phase)of the necessary contra-positioning involved in posting on ZFI. Do you really think you can convince someone about anything in Zen online? I doubt it. Or at least not about anything that counts. I think my drive for posting is finally letting up. Maybe once Eido is out of there I'll give it up altogether. After all, anyone who wants real advice can always use the "Ask a Teacher" function. :)

  3. "the protective walls, so lovingly constructed, simply cannot stand the test of time, the test of life."

    Why should they? When they are gone you are not still free to love? To build again, this time knowing better the worth of such walls?

    " I wonder when there is no equal eureka to be found in an autumn leaf or a raindrop or a cranky old person."

    I wonder if you undervalue what you seem to find in writing. Ideas and thoughts seemingly just flow out of you into this blog.

    You are connected although you don't seem to be noticing it right now.

    " it takes a weight off my shoulders, somehow, just making a quasi-decision to be old.."

    "Old" has the worth one gives it. Seems you have a much better sense of its weight to me.