Growing Older

Today, is my birthday.

It has been an interesting past year. Looking back over the past year, I’ve grown older, true, but I’ve also learned things. Things, a year ago, I never even imagined I’d be learning now. A year ago I had not the slightest interest in learning Mandarin Chinese, or attempting French, which, regretfully, I’m not actively studying like I am with the Chinese, but since I desire to focus on either one or the other right now, the French is on hold for the time being. Still, I find it slightly amusing that when I encounter French, and sometimes Spanish (Which I haven’t studied), I can sort of understand it, though very imperfectly. Well enough to know where I am in the French version of Harry Potter is about it. As for Spanish, I’m not sure why that makes as much sense as it does to me, and am not at all surprised when I don’t understand it.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet the last couple of weeks, I ran out material in my journal to write from, have been rather tired, and have been, to be honest, in one of my seasons of what my guess would be something like a depression. Every few months I get in these states where everything seems to lack meaning, or purpose, it feels like, well like I’m wandering around in a fog, or am in a very deep hole, or perhaps walking through Máiréad’s Labyrinth. It is something that I have, and I am not resentful of it, a great deal of good is produced out of these dark moments, I learn things I wouldn’t learn otherwise, and it is often these times, once they are over, out of which the works I consider to be my best are often born from. For me, this is part of life, even though at times it feels a bit mad. As a whole, I know what other people are feeling more often than not, because I too have been there, as a whole, I feel the good times, and also the not so good times, are what make us human, this is life, and it is a gift. The joys and the sorrows alike.

We must face the breaking down, if we are to be built up. We must face the reality of what we are, if we are to be made into something better. It seems to me at times to be something of a circle, or a cycle, if you will. You are broken down, cleansed, rebuilt, broken down, cleansed, rebuilt, over and over again, but every time, more preciousness is revealed as a result, every time you become something more than what you were before. With every refinement you shine the brighter. In many ways we live in a symbolic world.

I, at least, tend to look at things in terms of symbolism, and even my clothes often have some symbolic reason for why I chose them. For example, if I’m wearing black, white, and red. I’m wearing it as a symbol for death, purification, and redemption. The black represents death, the burial of the old man, the breaking down, the reduction to an absolute elemental state, the white represents the purification, the cleansing, of the elemental state that the black has broken me down to, and the red the redemption, the rebuilding of me into a man again, or if you will, the rise of the new man. The red represents the victory over the unman. Yes, I do consciously choose my outfits at times, not all the time, I am, after all, interested in fashion too, I don’t always wear something because it means something, or to tell as story with it.

Again, as I see it, life is a journey, and it tends to go in circles, it isn’t like a straight line, but rather a process where one goes, the finds oneself back again where one started, over and over again. A cycle that seems to hold a purifying effect upon us as we learn more, and grow more. This circular pattern, it is like the seasons of the year, every year the same four seasons repeat themselves, then again the year after that. Life tends to be that way, very repetitive, and full of seasons. I suppose my outfits represent these seasons as well, we find ourselves in a continuous process of being broken down, purified, and finally a new man for it, different from who we were before. Sometimes I think there is a little more red each time the process is repeated.

It is my birthday, and I can think of no better day than today to talk about the other day that marks my story, and that is the day that I die. There is a beginning, and an end for me. In time, I will die. It is part of my story, it is the final part in this chapter of my story. That said, if I die, and If I’m ever to be buried, and have a funeral and all that, perhaps I should like to be dressed in red I think, it is an appropriate color to represent what I’ve become in my death. A new man, an entirely new man. But, I must do more research on burial traditions, there might be a good reason, that I’m not aware of, not to wear red to my funeral.

Sometimes, I find it strange that I do not seem to fear talking about, or thinking of my death, what I fear, is forgetting to live.

On the subject of death I find I can talk about my own almost without thought, and it seems odd to me that this is the one subject you do not talk about, at least in this culture, a culture which is afraid of old age, not to mention dying, forgive me if I seem a bit weird for it, it’s not like I’m trying to be brave or anything, and it’s not that I talk about it casually, it’s more that I do not feel any particular need to remain silent about something that is a part of my story, a reality, and a part of my existence. Death, I suppose I know that it’s part of the equation, so I ask myself why should I ignore it?

Yes, it’s true, I suppose, when I consider the bigger picture, that death loses all power of fear over me, almost to the point of being something I long for. An escape from a lesser world into a greater one. It is not a looming shadow to my soul, but the beginning of the next chapter in my story, there is an anticipation for the next chapter, even though I am not in any particular hurry to turn the pages to get there. A story has to be lived, a page has to be read, before the next page can be opened, one has to first read what comes before. So it is with my death, it is the beginning of a new chapter, but I still have to finish this one. This is good, and it is not wrong to take my time, to savor every word, every moment of this life, it is the story of the present moment, and it is my story, the new chapter will come, it always does, I would do wrong to refuse to continue on the story, staying still, forgetting to live, and I would be wrong to rush through the story, turning the pages before it is time. This is the life I am living now, and it is to be lived today. I am alive, and not without reason or purpose.

And yet, as a Christian, it can be said, that in many ways, I am already one who has died already, and at a very young age I died, and became the new man. I am that new man, I am no longer the old man. There is death for everyone, but the timing and nature of it can be a little wibbly-wobbly. Thus, you might say that I do not need to fear death, for I answered that door a long time ago. In many ways, I can’t help but think of what I will call the conversion experience, as being very alike to a death of the old man, and the beginning of the new man.

Now, this is mostly speculative, I can’t exactly point to verses or tradition and suggest it to be the absolute truth, but it could even be said that though I may yet be buried, that it’s not me that is being buried, for as far as I can tell, I’ll even be dwelling in a new body at that point, so I won’t even be home, so to speak when they bury it. Yes, this body will die, in a sense.

Or to put it another way, you have to almost think of yourself as being two in nature, but one in essence. There is the old man, and the new man. I am the new man, but the old man will die. Let it, and do not grieve, as the new man I am alive forever, and there is nothing that can change that. Nothing. Not even the end of the Universe itself can end me. I am forevermore to be, forever. Without end. I am an immortal man. Thus, death is technically, not really in my equation, except in the sense of the old man’s death.

In the view of the Eternal, life in this world is but a vapor, it is but a little while, and then it is gone. The Universe itself is but a small and passing thing, something that is, and then fades quickly. But my home is forever, my hope is forever. This world is not my home, neither is this Universe, which is really part of this world in a sense. Even if the human race where to spread itself out among the stars, dwelling throughout all the universe, it would still be this world. I speak of a home beyond the borders of these lands, outside the Universe itself, if you will.

I am a wanderer, an alien, a pilgrim passing through. I am like Gandalf, this is not my home, I’m here, I’m to help those who dwell here, but it isn’t home. My home lies on distant shores, far beyond the borders of these lands. And in my heart I am always troubled about something, though I don’t always know what it is, there is this sense that I don’t truly belong here, that this world, this universe, is not my home, this is where I dwell, yes, but it isn’t home, for the true me, is the new man, and this is not the home of the new man.

I’ve come to realize, too that I am what can be called a contemplative soul. Someone who likes to ponder, to contemplate, to consider, or as my tagline on my blog says, I’m a thinker in progress.

I suppose it is the lot of a contemplative soul to feel deeply, love all, and see light in the darkness, but the price for the beauty is the crying soul within you. You feel not only your own pain and suffering, but you feel keenly the sufferings and pain of those around you. For the contemplative soul, the forsaking of oneself, the more decentralized you are, the more you are happy, but again, it is a price to be paid that you lose yourself, you lose your own identity, and can be spread thin, too thin at times. It makes one brittle, yet that is the price to be paid, the reward is that it is this soul that changes the world around it, it empties itself in the process, but the impact it leaves, lives forever, working miracles long after it passes from this world. It is to be beautiful, and almost glasslike. Fragile and strong. It is something wondrous, miraculous in a sense.

And, realizing that I tend to be this way, I see that such is my lot, to feel deeply, and to throw myself into the world, emptying myself, and taking up the pains, the sufferings, and the hurts of others, as though they were my own. It is, I suppose, a gift, one that I hope to see used in me more as my story continues. I truly feel that for me to have the greatest impact upon the world, I have to do exactly what it is that I am called to do, what I’ve always been called to do, to take up my cross, to deny myself, and follow Christ. To love in the manner of Christ. It isn’t always the strength of conviction that one will suffer for, sometimes, the strength is in the love you hold, even for those who would hurt you. That is the love I desire to have towards those around me.

When I read books, like The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolklien, I am inspired by those, like Gandalf, like Galadriel  and I feel as though I am called to be something, something more, someone who is not interested only in my own little world, and my own little self. I suppose I am growing discontent with what I must call a self-centered theology, yes, it is true that I am part of the story, but I am not the only part, and the story doesn’t revolve around me. There is in me, a desire towards interest in, not my own little world, and my own little self, but something greater than that, and like I said above, of late I feel restless, like a wanderer, like one without a home. I feel as though everything I once knew is changing, and that there is a greater truth to be found than the lies that I have believed, I’m just a part of a bigger story than my part of the story.

But the pain of facing the lies of the self-centered life, it is greater than I expected to find, yet it is something to be confronted and deeply, if I wish to be something more. I want to be a wanderer, a pilgrim. However, I also want to be one who stands for what is true, I want to be like Gandalf. A restless wanderer without a home, changing the world for the better, insofar as it is in my ability to do it, and yet, holding fast to what is true.

I may not have great power, or magic, nor do I have authority, I’m not a king, or a ruler. I’m just a man. A man, a lone man. A solitary man. One man, and a little man, and all I have is an almost impossible dream, and a few words. That is all.

It is my dream to just be, to just know, to just love. I want to care about those who I might otherwise despise, hold compassion on those who don’t deserve it. I need to be a man that is, a man that is a man. In many ways this means being a rebel against my culture, against almost everything I’ve ever known. But it is fundamentally a good rebellion, an almost holy rebellion, you could say. It is a rebellion against the self-centered man that is, with a dream of something better than my own little world.

It is desirable to me, to be a man who loves, and I truly desire to love all. My fear, I suppose you could say, is that I will not love the monsters, or will turn aside, loving only those whom I like, or simply turning inward, and loving only myself.

And, again, concerning death, it’s not like I’m particularly courageous or anything, but I do know that from the perspective of this world, I appear to have death ahead of me, and in consideration of the bigger picture, knowing that there is another chapter, it appears as a gift to me, and I am thankful for it, but it is not a gift that I may take at my choosing and in the wrong time, it is wrong for me to have. However, besides the fact that my story continues after this chapter is over, it is a gift because the idea of living in this world forever, I shudder at it, I do not want to live forever, not here, not like this. This is a world of pain, of darkness, a fallen world, it is a world that dwells in the shadows, and my home is a place of light.

Even so, there is so much I want to do before that day comes, there is still so much yet to be done, here, in this world, in this life. Speaking of the term, ‘in this life’ I suppose it can’t really be said that I have a next life, so much as a continued life. I still am me, no matter what. I always will be me. Always. Still, there are things I’d like to get done while I am here, in this world, in this season of my life. A season which is a bleak season, even on its brightest days, for it is still a shadow world, but nevertheless, I am not here without reason or purpose, and that is a comfort to my soul.

One of the things I’d like to accomplish is to tell my story, the great story, the story I have to tell. To see it given to the Earth as a gift. That is what it is after all, a little gift to the human race, in the form of a book. It’s a story, and it’s mine, and it’s not much perhaps, but it’s my heart and soul, and it’s my gift. I want to get it out of me and into the world. After all, what gifts and talents I do have, what use are they if I hoard them unto myself?

It is my birthday, an appropriate day to talk of the whole of life, the beginning, and the end.