Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Going Back to Byrds, Bosch, & ?


I think I'm goin' back to the things I learned so well in my youth. 
I think I'm returning to those days when I was young enough to know the truth. 
Now there are no games to only pass the time. 
No more electric trains, no more trees to climb. 
But thinking young and growing older is no sin. 
And I can play the game of life to win. 
Growing Older is no sin
I can recall a time when I wasn't ashamed to reach out to a friend. 
Now, I think I've got a lot more than just my toys to lend. 
Now there's more to do than watch my sailboat glide, 
But every day can be a magic carpet ride. 
A little bit of courage is all we lack. 
So catch me if you can, I'm goin' back.
by Carol King and Gerry Goffin

When the above song came out I was sixteen and like viewing the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch, I get it on a much deeper level now -- the joy of experience, the wonder and suffering of life, and liberation from status seeking with cars and money.  My magic carpet is soaring into the unknown and the previously known.  Sometimes goin' back is living here and now.  
Garden of Earthly Delights, El Bosco

Invited to a showcase from a new friend's improv class, inertia had me in its death grip.  I tend to be a stuck freak, comfortable with routine.  Coaxed out by loyalty to my friend and desire to support, I jumped on my bicycle and rolled to the Promenade.  On the stage in a small theater in a back alley, I enjoyed the class project of a dozen young people encased in bodies varying in age from 20 to 65.  Each one took a turn at improvising on suggestions from the audience.  

lt takes courage to get up in front of an audience without a script.  The older characters in the line up were living the message, thinking young.  Being willing to do something new and getting in front of people with it.  They shined a light on my definition of wisdom:  where experience meets heart.  A well was dug to the freshness and wonder of youth and tempered with the courage of age.  Like the Byrds said, it is no longer about how many toys (money) I have.  Refirement gathers the remnants of experience and joins them with the curiosity of youth.  What's next?  What can I bring to the party that is more than my toys?

As the largest generational cohort we can still be different and make a difference.  We can revive youthful ideals of freedom, creativity, nature respecting, and community.  But how can we temper our idealism of youth with the wisdom of maturity.  What does it look like to be free?  Can we live creatively?  How can I best serve to those in need?  What can I do to heal the natural environment?

We were known as the Me Generation in the eighties and nineties with the motto of 'winner have more toys.'  After the persistent economic and cultural insecurities of late, it is time to re-frame our generational concept to the We Generation.  We were once free and together. We cared about the world and enjoyed our music.  We have so much more to give than to go off into the sunset quietly.  A conference in Santa Fe scheduled for August 2012, Navigating Your Future, addresses this theme.  When a friend informed of this event, she added, 'We're Not Done Yet.'  Maybe sixty is the new twenty.

Let's dust off those old dreams of a better world for you and me.   We can recapture the spirit of hope and possibility of youth.  Elderhood can be an odyssey of reviving or discovering that lost spirit and applying it to career/ work, relationships/ community, recreation/ hobbies, social/ political transformation, spiritual awakening.  A notable political scientist, Bill Pray, offers an approach to activating for social change in his recent book, What Can I Do?  In it he lays out a detailed strategy for personal empowerment that counters the prevailing climate of aridity and cynicism.  

Together we can summons the courage to take that leap into the positive future we dreamed of.  Join me for another wild and wonderful magical mystery trip.  I am considering a return trip to the Prado in Madrid to see if El Bosco is still a doorway.  Perhaps to Paradisio in Amsterdam.  Where ever you wander be open to the unexpected thrill of painting a fresh canvas in this thing called life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time Disappears at Harbin's Stillpoint

Tattoo Celebration!
Under the bright sun on the wooden deck sat a trio of seekers, two girls and a guy.  Lined up front to back they beamed the light.  In the front of the line was the young man skinny with long brown hair, he sat in lotus position.  Behind him was a girl of about 21 with bright, multi-colored hair, grasping a round stone and a pyramid to her chest.   Virtually her whole back was covered by a type of sunburst tattoo with points of red light radiating outward, while in her shaved private area she had two studs and a chain.  The girl behind her massaged the sunburst and she smiled.  The masseuse’s wavy, burnt red hair flowed along with the caresses of her hands.     Her hair welcomed, like a bed with a down comforter.  The natural type she had one small, inconspicuous flower tattoo on her right hand and round, full breasts that moved with her gentle movements.   A little later a couple other members of their tribe appeared and a tall dude with a young Afro whispered into her ear.   Soon the whole tableau disassembled.    

Watching the scene for awhile, what caught my eye was the pyramid.  I could see that it was made of a kind of epoxy with a strange collection of shapes inside.   I borrowed the pyramid and inside were little timepieces, gold and silver colored foil, and other detritus.  Without thought, I lifted the piece to my head and up and down the chakras.   Soothing and energizing at the same time, I joined the tribe for a minute.  I felt free, fresh, and twenty again.

Those few moments on a deck, at Harbin Hot Springs resort illustrated to me the nostrum that there is no past.  We have memories but there is no past.  My memories of forty years ago and being young, wild, and free were no longer some ancient story that had receded into partial myth clouded with old feelings and selective recollection.  Present and here in that moment and not a page in an old book, I got that we are always young and old.  Similarly, an old, wise self is also present at any age.   

Provo Park, Berkeley 1970
Consider the wisdom of some twenty year olds.   It is coming from somewhere.  I know a young guy that can pierce the essence of a situation in ways that I can’t with all of my years of experience and advanced degrees.   Past lives are not gone. The moments of our lives are always with us.  Right now, I am 20 years old and feeling the unity of a political rally at Provo Park in Berkeley while the Youngbloods chant 'Come on people now, let's get together and love one another right now.'  And I also recently purchased my life pass for the national parks for those over 62.  Age and youth and everything in between co-exist in our timeless soul. 

When I noticed that group of young people on the deck at Harbin, I tapped into the younger me that was free and uninhibited and communal.  Don’t misunderstand.  I don’t wish to be young, but I am young, old, and in between.  Living in the present incorporates (gives a body) to the stories of our lives in the present.  One of the gifts of aging is having a history to access and bring to the present.

Osho Rajneesh and followers
An example of the other end appeared that day also.   Al Smith, 82, introduced himself at coffee that morning.  On a break from his wife of 60 years for a few days, Al has lived a free life.  Tall and fit with a shock of white hair and goatee, he had broken free of the 'rat race' at age 50.  A former jet pilot and designer of rockets for the Dept of Defense, he had had enough.   He quit his job, sold his house, and went to India for a year.  For several months he sat with the most famous and notorious spiritual teacher of his time, Osho Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  Hearing his tales about Poona 1 and travels around India, I could tell this guy got it.  He wasn’t pretending or fronting.   He didn’t spout theory or slogans.   He simply lived here and now.   After India, he moved to Ashland, OR and built his own house on top of a mountain surrounded by 160 acres of timber.  Building his own furniture and selling lumber, he lived free.
What did I learn from Al Smith?  No magic pearls of wisdom, no mumbo jumbo practices, just living here and now through connecting with others.   And the trio of world tribe young people?  They too live free, innocent, and open to the mysteries and each other.
Life is today.  The past is a story and the future catches up with all of us eventually.  But what is it that lingers?  The connection with the young tribe and their hopes and dreams for life, the old sunnyasin (spiritual seeker) and his simply living, and this moment looking at the keyboard.  We are all on this circle of life going around and around, birthing, living, dying.  Yet the still center continues and never changes.   

Sufis call the still point, Remembrance.   Judeo/ Christian tradition names it the soul.  Ultimately, it is the place where we come from and to where we return.  It is the unchangeable and the eternal part of us.  Our essence doesn’t change.   Keep this in mind whenever walls arise between you and others and then build a bridge.  Cross the water to the still point that is changeless.  And then when the end of this life comes, you may calmly say along with Osho,  “Enough for today.”