I was speaking to a friend about his intrigue with “patina” on furniture and building materials. Patina is the signs of weathering that give wood, metal and objects character. It’s considered desirable to show that the item isn’t newly manufactured and in fact, has been around for a while.
Of course, my mind went to patina in the human condition. Why isn’t it desirable to look like we’ve been around the block a few times? Why should we all look like fresh-faced newbies?
Maybe it’s capitalism… the encouragement to “get a new model” to drive the economy. We generalize the concept that new must be better. So new people must be better too.
I think most of us feel like new earthsuits would be more serviceable and less demanding that the older models. With new earthsuits comes the reality of cluelessness, and most of us wouldn’t envy that part of the deal, not to mention the trials and tribulations needed to breathe some wisdom into the callow mind.
Here’s my suggestion; aging is just “patina.” It’s a sign that we’ve been there, done that and hopefully have reached a peaceful place of self-acceptance. I plan to wear my patina with pride because I’ve earned it! (Not to say there isn’t some wrinkle crème in my medicine cabinet… I’ll call that “artistic license!”)
I remember my dear uncle saying, “Now that I’m old I can look back on life while I’m living it.” I didn’t get that at the time, but now I do.
What I find different about getting older is that I can be the observer and the actor at the same time. When we’re young, we’re “doing,” and if we are more mature than the majority, reflecting way after the doing is over. “Insight,” is just that…looking inward and reflecting. If we can do that while we’re living, we’re far better off than most folks.
If we aren’t among the more mature and mindful, we blunder along only to discover our patterns and miscues in what isn’t working in our lives. If we don’t blame others, we may end up in the office of a therapist. Better late than never!
On the Discovery Channel there was discussion about research moving toward life without death. On the surface, that sounds like the vanquishing of the ultimate enemy! But what impact will immortality have on the choices we make in our then open-ended lives?
Will we care as much about our impact on others? If we have endless “do-overs” will we choose to be mindful? There was a hypothetical projection that one day we will be able to upload our consciousness into an app and won’t need a body!
There is something about the finiteness of form and time that motivates us. That which is finite is more precious and worthy of introspection and meaning. Since neither I nor anyone reading this is at this point immortal in the physical sense, maybe we can cherish the life we are living and “look back at its impact while we’re living it.”
I was recently contemplating the words servant versus the word slave. In spiritual life, it is often said that we are servants, or those who minister to the needs of others. We choose this willingly.
One the other hand, a slave is someone who is ministering to the needs of others, but unwillingly. Many of us feel like slaves in our everyday lives. We go to work resentfully, feeling trapped by invisible obligations that (incidentally) we tacitly agreed to. The agreement was probably made in an unspoken exchange… “I’ll work at a job to make enough money to be a desirable mate.”
This happens in relationships as well. “I’ll be enslaved to your personality glitches because I dare not expose my feelings for fear of being unlovable.”
It’s interesting to note that the same job or relationship might feel like service if the choices came from love rather than fear. Think about that for a minute.
Desperation makes us unconscious. If we suspend self-doubt and make our choices from the platform of love, our direction would be guided by a steady hand. As soon as self-doubt and desperation intrude, we are slaves and the master is fear.
I was watching a Discovery Channel program about the Universe. There are apparently two forces in nature that dictate balance among the heavenly bodies. The Big Bang caused incredible forces of expansion that are still moving out from the center. The complementary force is Gravity, which keeps all things united in the center. Balance between these forces allows the Universe to expand at a reasonable rate.
I had taught a lesson recently on the “Comfort Zone,” that place in our experience that resists change. Otto Rank, the famous cohort of Sigmund Freud, wrote about “Life Fear,” (the desire to stay on familiar ground and resist change), and “Death Fear,” (the desire the move out of stagnation and grow).
Doesn’t it sound like life on the human level is both moving out from the center (expansion and death fear) as well as trying to hold on to comfort (contraction and life fear)?
The more we look at the way the Universe functions, the more the parallels to our experience we can find. Too much expansion = not safe. Too much contraction = stagnant/not growing.
We each have our own formula for what is enough familiarity/comfort and what is enough adventure/discomfort. I can see that if we are excessive in either direction, we get a diagnosis!
The reason I’m writing this is to tie some concepts together, namely, our experience as human beings is a reflection of the way things are universally. This may seem like a head scratcher, but if you have a little time to read and reread, maybe you’ll agree. All roads embody singular truths that may look different at one level, but join in Oneness at another level.
Contemplating where we are in our levels of expansion and contraction can be a healthy rubric for self-reflection. Try it!
It’s taken me a long time to discern the difference between being self-absorbed and self-appreciative. I think I always shied away from embracing the good things about me, feeling a little ashamed and self-indulgent.
It’s time to change that script! Not that I’m perfect, by a long shot…but I can say this about me… “I am a resilient SOB!” I’ve learned over these years that each test, each setback, is an opportunity to self-reflect and find strength I didn’t know I had. I’ve even realized that the “mistakes” were just detours and the scenery was pretty interesting, even if unexpected.
There are so many distractions in this world. People tell wrong-minded stories about who we’re supposed to be. We spend decades trying to be that person, the thin one, the popular one, the lovable one. We give away our power to other poor souls who are scuffling along just as we are. We seek approval ahead of wisdom.
Without self-reflection, making friends with myself and loving this person, we are on an endless quest for the impossible. At some point, I realized I would never be fulfilled unless I embraced my flaws and my talents and worked my way along the Path accepting both.
As a younger person, I could have had the most persuasive teacher along these lines, but there truly is a ripening of Spirit that needs to occur over time. The fruit gets sweeter as it ripens.
Every day I promise to check my familiar face in the mirror will and thank me for staying the course, for recovering from disappointments and heart-break. I will thank me for loving people without judgment. And I will thank me for arriving at the point where I joyfully offer my legacy to whomever is interested.
I will forgive me for being foolish and immature at times. I will forgive me for an undisciplined mind that sometimes strays from the Path of clarity.
These “love songs” will be sung every day. It would be wonderful to expand the solo into a chorus. I’m listening…
With love, Rosanne