I was watching a film about Baba Ram Dass entitled “Fierce Grace”, which is the term he uses to refer to the stroke he suffered. The film is about his recovery and the insights he gained as a result of the stroke. At one point in the film he observes, “This isn’t who I expected to be.” This comment is in direct reference to his difficulties in now using his right side and in finding some words for what he’s trying to express. Whether or not we have had a stroke many of us who have reached middle and late middle age have most probably also uttered these words or at least thought them! It’s almost as if you awaken one day to find that Life has kidnapped you, had its way with you and left you on the other side of your youth changed into someone who is a stranger to yourself!
Changing is not a bad thing! How terrible it would be to arrive at 60 still thinking as one did when 6! Unfortunately the accruing of years does not guarantee growth in wisdom! I once heard someone say, “I don’t like to feel bad so I avoid anything that makes me feel bad.” Unfortunately for such an individual Life’s role is to be our teacher and its teachings can make us feel bad! When we come to realize that our moral and spiritual life is in need of change then to turn away from knowing that assures we will never find peace! By middle age looking in the mirror in the morning can be a disconcerting experience since the mirror, like Life, is relentless in showing us that we no longer look like the 18-year-old we feel ourselves to be inside! At 64 I have learned to embrace the mirror. I have also learned that when Life changes the tempo of the dance I damned well better learn some new steps! In short, Life is all about change!
There are two quotes I love, the first of which is more poetic and is by the Sufi mystic Rumi, “Make your last journey from this strange world soar for the heights where there is no more separation of you and your home”. This speaks not only of growth in integration but also of a certain joy in taking the journey. At 83 Mavis Leyrer put it perfectly: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting Holy Sh*t, what a ride!” Profane words describing profound truth! As the Deacon often proclaims in our Sunday Divine Liturgy, “Let us attend!”