Writings

The Midlife Labyrinth #2


Loss
The Midlife Labyrinth #2
I watched an interview the other day where Larry King and Neil deGrass Tyson, the American astrophysicist, were discussing the afterlife and amongst other things they wondered what their answer would be if they were given the chance to live forever. Larry jumped to a yes, without a moment of doubt, but Mr deGrass hesitated and argued that life probably would lose its sense of wonder if we were stuck in a constant loop of repetition. Or as he put it, why even get out of bed if you get to forever have a tomorrow? He feared that the whole world would turn into a collective 'manñana, mañana' and that appreciation of the preciousness of the moment would be lost.

I happen to agree with this second opinion. Don't take me wrong, I'd probably add a few decades, maybe a couple of centuries, to my visitation time to this particular life window, but.. forever? I think I'd feel like Mr. deGrass, forever is too long. Lose impermanence, lose death, lose loss and you lose an essential part of what life is all about, the subtle but very important push that the awareness of fragility provides us with towards the appreciation of this ordinary moment. Its enclosure in a finite frame adds an extra dimension to it, making the ordinary extraordinary.

If you have been relatively lucky, you first encounter with loss will come now, during your middle age years. Events and people have come and gone before, but there was always something new, maybe even 'better' to replace them, so rather than lose, we have been calling it improvement. But is hard to see your parents age and eventually die, your vitality reduce, your children grow and leave, your skin wrinkle or your marriage's vibrance disappear, and take all that in as improvement. The memory of a better past time gradually begins to eat up the anticipation of a brighter future. This meal might go fast or slow but it will only finish when total digestion is achieved and so we realize that we have absolutely nothing, we never did, we only loan. But as we forget that in the illusion of life's solidity, when the time to give it all back comes, we suffer.

For me, as I remain lucky, knock on wood, and have not lost people or much health yet, the loss of freedom is the one that represents all others. A couple of days ago I was driving, listening to Audio slave, and when 'Getaway car' played, I got this overwhelming surge of freedom taste, of everything being possible, of life being nothing else but an open unwritten book. One of those heart expanding moments. And as I did, I also realized how long it had been since I last felt that way. As we age and settle, as our personalities solidify and our circumstances concretize, crossroads have less exits, journeys are shorter and repetition takes over the place exploration use to have in our lives. The child or young man that dreamt of a magical future full of adventure flights has become a grown up that moves gently in his spider Webb, careful not to entangle himself further. Many a times have I thought of cutting lose, many a times wrestled against the strings of the web, and each one them times soberly and voluntarily have I come to the same conclusion: I have both built and decided to inhabit the web not by force but by choice. And I continue to do so.

If I take that one step further, with full knowledge of the rules of engagement, I have both created and decided to take part in the game of life, in receiving and giving back, in saying both hello and so long. We all have. With this in mind, life, as it is, full of pain and way too short, is not a curse, but the loveliest of gifts. And when seen this way, the absence of ownership, the vanishing lightness of memory or the disappearance of a future, make no difference to life's joy, because through the power of appreciation one narrows down the view so much around Now, that nothing else is, or is not. Through the grace of choice, externally partial, internally absolute, we get to embrace life's impermanence in all its glory, no matter what, no matter when. When Now is all you see, what does death mean anyways?

Every loss is a gift for it furthers your gratitude for what is (left). At every loss you renew your choice to keep engaging despite the erosion that you suffer in the engagement. Every loss is a bridge to Now. To cross that bridge, the highest expression of our freedom.

Surely, stuck in a traffic light on the way to work, you are likely to feel very different from the driver of a convertible Cadillac who disappears into the Californian sunset. Just remember, when the road hits the Pacific, he too will have trouble parking, and he too will have to eventually turn around.

Picture: my buddy Pedro lost his beloved long board to the west Coast last month. Good thing that a fresh batch of fiberglass and epoxy resin is on the mail.

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