As in the instant

Sometimes I eye myself in the mirror and see my father looking back at me. Other times it’s one of my brothers. Silly, of course: It’s really me. But I see the family resemblance.

I’m spending quite some time today thinking about the passage of time. Time doesn’t actually pass — it’s always now. We can describe what just happened or what happened a long time ago, but the description will be filtered through now, as it has to be, because there’s only now. Any recording or recollection is necessarily not as good as in the instant.

It’s all one journey, from waking consciousness, to awareness of consciousness, to learning to walk, and moving about. We touch base with our memories and compare notes with other people, but it’s all one journey of awareness and discovery.

Oh, how profound and pretentious I sound, as if disclosing a secret of the universe newly unearthed. What fools we mortals be — and all these years later, I have a new understanding of what old Will meant when he wrote that line. I am an old dog still learning very old tricks in hopes of mastering them someday.

Still me

I know my back aches more than it used to. I know sometimes I pause in mid-sentence because I just can’t think of the right word and I know the word has come to my mind dozens if not hundreds of times before. I know I have to stop and sit more often when I am walking or doing physical work — and speaking of walking, I know I’d rather not run anymore, even if I’m in a hurry.

And yet I’m looking out at the world with the same consciousness that looked out at the world to find Spider-Man #4 in a pile of other comic books for sale in the summer of 1963. These are the same fingers and arms that held a woman for the first time in the 1970s with all the wonder and delight that can mean. I am still the young man who watched, fascinated, as stupid people hurled eggs at a stage in Oshkosh because they didn’t like what Mr. Reagan was saying about freedom and tyranny. Of course my opinions and frame of mind have changed in all these years, but it’s still me.

I look in the mirror and see the same person who looked in the mirror and saw an underweight tall drink of water, even though now I see an overweight old man with a beer belly.

All I’m trying to say is that the externals have changed and quite a few points of view have changed — although I still believe Reagan was right when he said government IS the problem — but the consciousness that powers these fingers across the page and sees and hears the world around it is still the same consciousness, even if it doesn’t see or hear as clearly as it did back in olden times.

We only get one body and one consciousness in this lifetime, and we’re stuck with them for a very long time, so it’s best we take care of them and feed them right and use them with as much wisdom as we can muster.

Metaphor in a pile of paper

I rotate my head around and up and down and to the left and to the right, grasping for the next topic and the next few words to write.

My eyes come to rest on toy animals, books, the ashes of beloved pets, the gentle but firm snowfall outside, and a pile of paper on a surface that I promised would never again be covered with piles of paper. There: A goal for when this writing session ends.

We load up our lives with scraps of tasks, one on top of the other, and soon we are so piled up that we have neglected the original task — in this case, to keep it all clear of distractions. The famous aphorism may say it best: When you’re waist deep in alligators, it’s easy to forget that your plan was to drain the swamp.

I’m fortunate, this time, that the pile is not so high that I might despair of seeing the surface of my desk ever again.

Now, once I reach the surface, I need to promise myself — again — that it will stay clear. Some promises need to be renewed a few times before they stick.

Fulfillment of the quest

© Demid | Dreamstime.com

Once upon a time a young man set off on a quest. He was full of hope and optimism and maybe just a touch of anxiety that he may not be up to the task. But he dove into the quest with enthusiasm and confidence and maybe just a touch of arrogance — he was a young man, after all.

Along the way he encountered trials and tribulations, an occasional monster, and occasional triumphs, and he met a fair damsel to spend the rest of his life with — uh oh, maybe not that long — and then another, this time for sure, and well, he made his way toward the goal as best he could.

One day, he was resting from an especially daunting episode and reflecting on it all, when suddenly he sat bolt upright in his easy chair.

“My God!” he cried. “I’m living happily ever after, and I almost didn’t realize!”

And so he was. He looked all around him, at the life he was living, and saw it all as if with new eyes.

A person writing his story might say, “The End,” at this point, but that moment was everything but.

New Week’s Day

Ah, Monday. Oh dear, Monday. The poor misunderstood thing. So many people believe that they can’t trust that day.

What if — just imagining here — What if we thought of Monday in the same way we think of New Year’s Day? Instead of beginning a new 365-day cycle with celebrations and resolutions and new beginnings, what if we whittled the cycle down to seven days? 

That way we only have to keep those daunting resolutions for six days, and then we go out and celebrate New Week’s Eve, and then we have our New Week’s Day holiday before settling back into the routine on Monday.

Monday becomes the second day in January, only every week. Mind you, I’m just talking about mindset here, not the weather — it will probably be easier to drum up enthusiasm of this sort on Monday, June 12, for example.

Think of it: Every week, new resolve, new goals, new beginnings, new opportunities, all the fun of the new year, without the dread of long-term commitments and fear of failure. “Go to the gym three times a week” is a much more manageable goal than “Go to the gym 1,095 times between now and Dec. 31.” Even I might be able to do three, and next Monday is another new beginning.

I think I’m onto something here. It’s nothing new. It’s even a semi-cliche: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Every Monday becomes a new opportunity to reset and start over, just like New Year’s Day.

Last week I read a story about how someone determined that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year — something about New Year’s resolutions fizzling out, the holiday season becoming a distant memory, and two more months of winter to stare down.

But if we approach the new week in the same frame of mind as we do the new year — hope, optimism and all those other senses we sense on Jan. 2 — it might change almost everything. What do you think?

The best resolution

“Why yes, yes I know it’s the second half of January,” I posted with a photo of our Christmas tree surrounded by its reflection in the mirror and patio door. “What ever is your point?”

One of our most cherished stories is about a man who, confronted with his failings and looming mortality, resolves to keep the spirit of Christmas in his heart year-round. I’m not sure I can think of a better resolution.

A brightly decorated tree lighting the night seems just the thing to push the dreariness away in winter.

The mind-boggling power of words and music

And here I go again, looking at the books and records lined up on the shelves and contemplating how many hours or days it would take to read all of the books and listen to all the waiting music.

I think about how long it takes to craft a book and send it to market, and the years spent learning to read and write and play an instrument and combine the playing with other musicians to create a song, and here are hundreds and perhaps thousands of songs and stories surrounding me just in this room.

Many of the souls who created these works have moved on to wherever souls go when their bodies are spent, but their creations remain, and they come alive again when I open the book or play the recording. Our bodies do not live forever, but the words and the music survive and flourish.

What is humanity’s greatest invention? I say words, and music close behind. They unite us in ways all other inventions can only approximate. Oh, they can divide us, too, in the wrong hands, but what we have in common is always stronger.

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