We are not mad. We are human. We want to love, and someone must forgive us for the paths we take to love, for the paths are many and dark, and we are ardent and cruel in our journey.
I was sleeping when the cat jumped landing on my thigh bone and pulling me rudely across the threshold into consciousness. She had correctly calculated a direct hit, executed a three point turn for her get away…just out of my reach. How my cats can sense when I am waking up or, more specifically, when a meal might be hurried is truly in the realm of the Mysteries.
My first thought was that I did not feel rested…my back hurts… again or still. I think about the video yoga classes, I have restarted. Did I overdo? I am suddenly aware that this not-feeling-well has become a new post-COVID normal. I resist the possibility that this is normal for retirement age, and not chronic. Affirming my own reality bubble that this will not be my retirement experience.
I do not plan to ever retire. I have organized, funded and executed a lovely, satisfying and healthy dotage. I am a decade into my third career as a hospice chaplain, pretty good at it, looking pretty good, too...(Ahem...for an old lady).
These thoughts call Leonard Cohen to mind.
I flopped back to prone in my bed remembering the solo trip yesterday to a video-musical-art exhibit in San Francisco’s Jewish Museum. Its impressions, still raw for me, were amazement, as well as a little depressing. It was not the uplift, I had wanted and expected. It spoke of the vulnerability of time and aging…specifically decline of the masculine body…the inevitable waning muscularity of force, and willfulness. There was also a palpable beauty of their collective surrender to what is, to time. It transcended and hinted at a redefined human strength in the face of Earth-time as more wisdom than will, and more fulfillment than failure.
Separately but in Sync
“I hurt in places where I used to play…” was a Cohen line that still jabbed at me.
The exhibit (Open though mid Feb, 2022) is composed a bunch of just-larger-than-life videos of old men speaking and singing Cohen poetic lyrics-separately but in sync–into the darkness. We, the thirty or so people in the audience were huddled on the central bench and, those walking around were abruptly face to face with the ripened (and raisin-ed) masculinity.
I was watching from our dark place, these men truth-speaking into their darkness... as mine. It was hard not to feel it personally. Cohen’s line in Hallelujah is “ I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch…” spoke their own stories as his words about the misunderstandings of love. Some seemed repentant. Others seemed aloof. Many were still clutching their rage like superman capes. Others were simply illuminated.
“Isn’t the guy in the hat Leonard Cohen?” I asked the woman to my left of the clean-shaven man in a suit.
“Don’t know”, was what I heard through her double COVID masking. I leaned to the right and asked another masked one. She didn’t know either.
I stood up. I walked out of the audience’s dark to stand beside the hatted man. In his light, I listened to his voice. We were alone...and not. Each video has this intimacy and immediacy. The closer I got to any one of the twenty or so video-ed men, I could hear their voice alone. Leonard and I stood together. While I was at his shoulder, he grabbed the script, rolled his eyes, and laughed a little like a boy caught without his homework…He then continued to read with the others–solo but in sync. It was his iconic voice whispering into my ear.
Aging is like this. It keeps whispering change into me. It is humbling, profound…and it hurts. The worst pain is not physical. It’s the questions but that is where the relief is too...
I am on my third career. I walk on the edge of places no one wants to be. I am a curious cleric with good questions. It takes a lot of courage and humility to ask kind questions at the right time. My superpower is knowing in my bones that time is not failure but fulfillment and... that the answer is always love - as we understand it to be.
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