A friend on Facebook recently quipped, “I thought growing old would take longer.” It’s funny how when we were younger time stretched out to an unbearable length, and yet when we are older it seems to suddenly contract, feeling the way the movie screen looks when the Enterprise shifts into warp-speed! Even though at 67 I don’t view myself as “old”, I can say that a fruit of being an older age is that of having grown into a certain degree of Wisdom, the gaining of a perspective unavailable to me when I was younger! One aspect of that perspective is that I now see prejudice in a place where I never before detected it. One might be tempted to think of prejudice only in relationship to the issue of race, or to our next-door neighbor who “Just pisses me off!” But prejudice can also blind us to the nature of the Divine, to whom religion is supposed to lead us! By “religious prejudice” I mean our automatic and unthinking inclination to a certain interpretation about the Divine; namely, that if the Divine loves us the Divine will rescue us from our own stupidity!
I found the following quote by the Dalai Lama very insightful: “We cannot solve all problems through prayer only. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created a certain problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say: Solve it yourself because you created it in the first place!”
This insight is Wisdom manifesting itself as realism, not as theology… but Wisdom is itself no matter what clothing it wears! Some people prejudiced in favor of traditional religious interpretations might take umbrage and accuse the Dalai Lama of either denying the Divine or of leaving the Divine out of the picture! In fact, what he is pointing out is that the Divine will not be our big Daddy and clean up the messes that we have created, and that by refusing to step in and work “magic” in our life the Divine is actually calling us away from childish thinking, calling us to step up to the issue of personal responsibility, which is a manifestation of an adult life. The Dalai Lama is pointing out that the mess in the Garden in which we live is OUR mess, and that WE must clean it up!
I am sometimes amazed how, each Spring, the ancient apple tree out back still produces flowers which eventually still turn into fruit! The reason that the old apple tree still produces fruit is… because it knows that it still can! This “doing what it can do” IS a kind of Wisdom! The tree doesn’t waste time mourning it’s now-lost stage of being a sapling. It doesn’t wait for the Gardener to come along and feed it. Instead it gets on with doing what it knows it can still do, which is producing fruit that feeds others. And in doing so the old apple tree generates a happiness within itself that no gardener… or god… can give to it!
What do we know about ourselves? DO we constantly search for someone to rescue us from the chaos of our choices? Are we producing any fruit for others, and if not… why not? Our lack of fruit has nothing to do with either the Gardener or the Divine; as Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy… and he is us!”