For those who are not chronologically advanced, the Holiday season may have been very slow in arriving. But for those like me, 63-years along, I simply cannot believe it—again. However, one distinct advantage for the chronologically advanced is the accumulated memories and experiences of all the years of living. I have a lot of those memories and experiences and having traversed the landscape of them, yet find myself at a keyboard feeling very well indeed, is simply another great reason to smile and feel good.
In the movie Little Big Man, a story about the myriad of changes in life, identity, and learning, there was a scene in which a character named (I think) Old Lodgeskins believes he is about to die. He asks his sort-of-adopted son, Little Big Man (played by Dustin Hoffman) to accompany him to the mountain and witness Old Lodgeskins’ last life-song. In his life review, Old Lodgeskins gives thanks to the Great Spirit for blessing the old warrior’s life with what had become all of his victories and all of his defeats. As he lay down to die it began to rain, which seemed to keep him anchored to his existence. That was followed by the realization he had grown hungry. With a sigh, Old Lodgeskins exclaimed that “sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t” and suggested the two of them head down the mountain to the warmth and dryness of a tepee, and some good food. Dying would wait until another day.
Old Lodgeskins, and Little Big Man for that matter, had lives and experiences that were not always—or even mostly—in their control. In terms of coping strategies; solving problems are necessary though not always possible, but learning to manage responses is both necessary and nearly always possible.
With managing responses in mind, what follows is a why I feel good, despite the fact that little has turned out as I had once hoped.
I feel blessed because my experiences have not defined me. Even my attempts to define myself, do not define me. I am defined, as we all are, by the emptiness—uncontaminated, expansive, no-strings-attached, awareness—that pervades everything and no-thing. To discover even a tiny piece of this wonder, is to become free. To practice being this kind of emptiness, however it falls short of the essential gift, is joy, is beauty. Who among us, in whatever state we find or create for ourselves, can be downtrodden when we discover such truth? Such a discovery means we are no longer fooled by appearances alone, but know all that appears reflects truth.
All right, yes, it is also true that we might discover we’ve got several freighter-loads of work to accomplish from banging around in life creating disturbances. Certainly I think humans have managed to build a rather large karmic wheel. Sometimes we can do the work to right the ship (solve problems), sometimes we can simply stop our disturbed directions (manage responses), sometimes we can do a little of both, but the fact appears that from any given position, we’ve got a portal from which we can begin the turnaround. Such work is good work and also a blessing.
Some Things I Think I’ve Learned
I have not always practiced or remembered what follows, but what I think I’ve learned and managed has made an impression on me, even if what I figure would happen, didn’t.
I’ve learned that I thought were my victories or my defeats were neither.
I’ve learned that my love for another or another’s for me can not be fenced-in by labeling, though we can try mightily.
I’ve learned that possessions are not the standard of success, but success is simply learning to see that all things are perfect.
I’ve learned that what comes under our direction is our stewardship. It is through our stewardship that we give answers for the question actually asked of us: “What is the meaning of life?”
I’ve learned that there is such a diverse manifestation of attentions as to make it all but impossible for me to empathize with them all. From that I’ve learned that it is I who has not figured it out.
I’ve learned that though there are many who have condemned me and felt better for it, it is not the accumulation of negatives others have bestowed upon us that matter, but the accumulation of negatives we have bestowed upon ourselves. From that I’ve learned that my condemnation of others is not so much about them, but much more about me.
I’ve learned that speaking or writing in symbols is fraught with the trouble of interpretation. I’ve heard it said that every reader rewrites the book. From that, I’ve learned that though it may be my book, that book is others’ as well.
And finally, for this round anyway, I’ve become aware that we learn by contrasts, but become wise by integration. This doesn’t mean I’m wise, it means I’m reaching out. Though I think we would be better off by reaching out more often than we do, at least the Holiday season provides the format for being of good cheer and wishing others the same. And so I do: Let us all have a wondrous Holiday, filled with lots of learning, wisdom, and deepened connectivity. And may we all realize our blessings. That gift unwrapped will surely keep on giving.