I think I was just a mile or two east of Bayfield when I crossed an invisible threshold and stepped into grandfatherlyness. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and the land was covered in snow and I was listening to Van Morrison when it hit me! “Today is my 63rd birthday and I am experiencing………..peace and fullness” and man does Van still rock! But down the road a bit and Van was getting boring and that thought kept bubbling up “today I am 63.” There was nothing to do but pay attention to the thought and be with the intention of holding whatever arose with loving kindness. And I did and it was a good day and I was glad to be 63. And the glow lasted for a week or so after the epiphany and then faded but did not go away. That initial certainty of crossing a threshold as I drove up the road to see some friends has stuck around – more than stuck around it has moved in and is occupying space and demanding thought time.
I by-passed being a father – my little extra X seeing to that but I don’t think for a second that these states and stages of life and living a/k/a archetypes have anything to do with being a biological dad and then by luck of the sperm a grand daddy real time too. Nope. I m not talking about a physical state of being as much as a psychological state and perhaps a spiritual shift. This grandfatherlyness is shorthand for a whole new stage in my life – it is shorthand for the energies of archetypes or Buddhist warriors or hungry ghosts. I don’t have a map of going forward. No one does. We all like and need to believe and some of us will steal and kill to pretend that the future can be known and that we can control it. A leading edge of my mediation practice is extending the understanding that there is no blame. There is no one to blame for the conditions I find myself in. None. Can’t blame the government/Wall St, Can’t blame mommy or dad, can’t lay the burden of blame at anyone or thing’s feet including mine. A wise old man once told me that “love is the only law in the universe,” my experience confirms this is true.
In a Jungian universe of symbols and archetypes; of unconscious and collective consciousness; of shadows and strange gods and goddesses there is an archetype called the Senex a/k/a the old man, a wizard type like Merlin, or Gandolf and of course the Dark Lord. And it seems as well, according to myth and legend, that each old man is only completed when he is engaged in a relationship with the “Puer” a/k/a the child – think Frodo, Harry Potter, or Peter Pan. And this heroic youth, the Puer dwells within – within all of us. I call mine “lil dude” and it is through his eyes that the old man in me sees light dancing in flowers. The Puer is one’s own purity and innocence. It is the heart and it reflects our Buddha nature – the purity and innocence of our own noble hearts.
What used to require hours of research is now seven words away. The archetype Jung called the Senex and I call grandfatherlyness is neatly defined as “a time in the life of every man where he begins to pass through stages and states of living.” That’s a pretty good definition and thats pretty much what I am starting to experience. I am in a place in life where the old ways of how I defined myself no longer work. This did not just materialize the day of or in the days since my 63rd birthday. I have sensed the movement and had momentary glances of the lessons life offers us for awhile.
The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is: There is suffering. We suffer in life in myriad ways and we all suffer our inevitable aging, sickness, death. These are universal and shared human experiences. They link us together. We all have them. A question arises – how do I meet them. With an open mind or with denial? Do we hold others and ourselves in compassion now? Are we kind to ourselves and to others now – now in the midst of living as each person’s unique life unfolds….in sickness and in health….till death do us part?
Crossing the threshold into grandfatherlyness it is clear there is no endless future and surely and long before I am ready, the time will come when I can no longer see to photograph and become to frail to kneel into the sweet earth – and rise again. And that time will come when everyone I love will have gone on. Those remaining to carry the loss and to experience their hearts breaking open a little bit more with each one. These times will come. All that we love will end and then one breath will come and it will be our last and we will go on to where ever the next stop is.
And the kicker is – no one knows. Not really. Life is Dharma – so what ever comes to each of us is our own unique Dharma path. Pema Chodren observed that “we think we are sitting in the front of the train looking at the future as it comes towards us but in truth we are sitting in the back of the train only able to glimpse the future as it passes by.” I grew up in the Ozarks- hillbilly country – Porter Waggoner and Dolly land and there was a saying that I heard that didn’t make much sense before I crossed over into this new psychic landscape:
“You never know when the truck won’t start.”
I think the message is pretty clear – life is precious – live now – love and take care of your truck.