"The elders in a society, says Bill Plotkin, traditionally speak for the wider concerns of the earth, calling others to a deeper respect for life. They have internalized (and outgrown) the institutions that once defined them, citizens now of a larger community. They don't belong anymore to the academy or the workplace, nor exclusively to the nation or church that previously framed their identity. Their life isn't about accomplishment or belonging." Belden Lane
This sounds a little bit like the fourth stage of life in Hinduism, I think. Too bad American society, with its overemphasis on youth, doesn't get it. Of course, given that overemphasis, many of the "elders" in American society hardly fit Plotkin's description.
Nature's stark indifference is as healing as it is distressing. Standing in the shadows of an old-growth forest, I don't dwell on what "God" is or what "I" am or what the short-leaf pine is (in all the intricacies of its being). I'm simply present to the fact that Mystery is, that I am, that the pine tree stands there in its naked, nameless presence. That alone is enough. More than enough.
I called my recent book, "Images and Meditations." What I've been reading lately supports much of what I included there for meditation, and so today, no image, just some quotations (meditations) from Fenton Johnson's essay "Going it alone The dignity and challenge of solitude" in Harper's:
"The word 'restraint' implies the asking of an essential question, one that is . . . antithetical both to capitalism and science as we practice them: Because we can do something, must we do it?
What . . . joys and sorrows can solitude offer?
I hear the answer in this quiet room; I see it in the angle of the autumn sun . . . To live for the changing of the light seems adequate reward.
I . . . imagined a world in which the people of compassion have reclaimed the institutions and the language of compassion--words like holy, sacred, sacrifice, divine, grace, reverence, God--words that have been handed over to demagogues."
And he quotes Emily Dickinson: "I find ecstasy in living--the mere sense of living is enough."
And he calls for a new vision "to counter the call to unrestrained consumption that is trotted before us at every hour of every day in every popular medium."
He concludes, "what love are we solitaries mute witnesses to? The omnipresence of great aloneness, the infinite possibilities of no duality, no separation between you and me, between the speaker and the spoken to, the dancer and his dance, the writer and her reader, the people and our earth."
Many of themes resonate strongly with my own thinking and experience, including what I find when I am making images with my camera, so I offer them for others for their consideration and reflection.
A couple of quotations from Belden Lane's "Backpacking with Saints"--which I am reading right now. I find both of these relevant to my experiences here in Florida--well, not the snow, but certainly the radical amazement:
Accepting what is--for what it is--is the place to start.
I hear nothing through the night, waking at dawn to a stillness that is almost unnerving. Opening the tent flap, I'm astonished by four inches of snow blanketing the landscape and covering the tent. It had fallen silently through the night, a white coverlet softening the edges of everything. I sit at the tent door looking out into a world that summons me to radical amazement. The wonder of things is suddenly, patently apparent.
I ran across a comment from Thomas Merton that reminded me of my earlier post (February 6th) about experiencing mountains and rivers. Here's what Merton wrote: "the 'child mind' . . . is recovered after experience. Innocence--to experience--to innocence." So, as I wrote there, we end up where we began and a la Eliot "know the place for the first time."
Dense fog this morning again, especially over by the bay. But yesterday in Dunedin? Well, see for yourself!