(Following my bliss at age 40; Robert Frost’s West-Running Brook, Derry, N.H., September 1990–one of many places I took time off from teaching to go see in New England; there are teachers then who told me dismissively, “That’s the trip I’ll make when I retire.” Many of them never did or are dead now.)
There are a lot of problems out there, many in the lives of people we know and may be closely connected to. We do our best in responding to those needs and concerns, often saddened or shocked by what others go through or put others through unnecessarily.
But time goes by as we get swept up by our work and the demands of the day. We try to hang onto our dreams and plans whatever they might be, on the side. Sometimes it is just a matter of periodic escape or getaway to remember who we are, were, and wanted to be and do.
Well, what about self and the passing, inevitably, of one’s life? Sometimes we throw in our fortunes with someone else, only to find that this, too, can fall a victim of the vines of change (Phil Ochs, “Changes’). All is in flux–today more than ever.
What does one actually feel inside about anything so fast-moving, social-media-bound, and transitory? New life–as in babies and young children–gives us some glimpses of what is or at least once was for us. Starting out as something resembling Wordsworth’s child in “Ode: Intimations on Immortality”, what Joni Mitchell in “Both Sides, Now” described as “So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.’
To come to understand not just process, sooner or later, but also the process of one’s own life–a certain self-development often opening up in mid-life or retirement.
All the questions:”Who am I?” “What most needs doing?” “What do I still want to do?” “What is missing from my life?” “What freedoms are available to me?” “What is my meaning and purpose?”
Sometimes, however, it may be enough to find what gives one delight, pleasure and engagement to begin with and build outward from that.
I think, though, that the freedom and dreams are realized individually and with someone one else/others. And that one ultimately needs to be open to both possibilities. And I would venture to say that a lot of focus is required to put others and what is external to ourselves–which we often cannot control or even influence, into perspective. And to remember that our main obligation is to ourself in order to keep ourselves healthy, sane, intact, true to ourselves–this all for ourselves and others.
After all, there are many choices each day. Which ones are productive, positive, enhancing either to self or others? Life’s complexities quickly rush in as one starts another day.
I find, though, that in the long run, death is often the main event which puts all and everything into perspective and, being still alive, one is quickly reawakened to oneself and whatever remaining possibilities within one’s own life and choices. In that, the Existentialists were very correct, that the fact of mortality creates a huge unavoidable responsibility to self–biologically, emotionally, spiritually and so forth.
So there you are today, lost in the myriad buzz of others and the conflicted world’ out there’. When all the time, there is that ebbing inner self and consciousness and presence which will one day be no more. Don’t get me wrong. It is good to do for others, but finally it is necessary to do for oneself, to eke out some kind of meaningful, purposeful, satisfying, fuflilling life “under the ribs of death.” (Milton)