Rewind?

Note: Now, at the commencement of my birth month and the approach of my natal day anniversary, marking the penultimate year of my seventh decade of life in this world, thoughts of the meaning of mortality arise. This is one…

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‘Tis always a temptation to revisit (restore!) that time afore (that then-time) so, to see (to be) my younger (better? best?) self before the changes wrought by chance and circumstance, and my not so grand choices.

That then-time when flesh raged with vigor, fatigue was a stranger, sight was undimmed and all horizons nigh; not as now, my earthly tent frayed by aging’s daily decay.

That then-time when potential was untapped (presumed inexhaustible); not, as now, in too many times past, in vain pursuits, squandered (and unrecoverable).

That then-time when daydreams were the sterling-currency of hope’s exchange; not, as now, many transfigured as nightmarish specters (as close as next-thought) of my failures.

That then-time when questions were bright, sunlit avenues of discovery; not darkened paths dead-ending into pitiless barricades of ambiguity.

That then-time when first-loves were s’pposed to be forever; not thresholds to earliest regrets.

That then-time when life’s-end was afar off (and unimaginable), not today’s wholly conceivable awareness of sooner-than-later death.

Ah, at times, I’d love to revisit and restore my yesterdays.

Yet dare I ne’er fall prey to this temptation, save in recollection. For only in this-time canst I live, aye, thrive.

This surest-truth summons daily that I embrace, embody (having become and still becoming) me.

© 2021 PRA

7 thoughts on “Rewind?

  1. Paul!!

    Wow, there was a lot in here!! So I say to you, Amen for thriving!

    And I have a question… is one of your posts going to include your greatest memories or accomplishments of each decade??? I’ve only been around for a decade and a half of your life and I sure have seen lots of incredible things you and Pontheolla have done! I hope you’ll think about doing that too!

    Love

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    1. Ah, Loretta, no, in this series of reflections leading up to (and including) my birthday, I won’t be writing about my greatest memories or accomplishments of each decade.” I do like the idea. Thank you. Yet it’s the sort of thing that would tend not to occur to me (and, indeed, it hadn’t until this your mention of it). For, generally, when I reflect on my life and times, I see more clearly the shadows of my existence than what might be considered the bright (or brighter) lights.

      Love

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  2. Dear Paul,

    I’ve been quiet as you have written of the approach of your birthday. I understand the impulses that are calling you to this reflection so well. I found the piece about your/your father’s face so poignant. And I find today’s piece very poignant also. The tone of regret, however, which I also understand, I feel I must also call somewhat into question. Every self-disappointment, every regret, you recite, I must kindly protest, was material for the creation of the man you are and, as you point out, are still becoming. Not only material, but rich material, precious material, uniquely yours, uniquely incorporated into the design of Paul, the wise, loving, giving, creative man I know today. The by-products of regret, remorse, disappointment, are just so, by-products of a process of becoming that certainly exist but that are not in any wise the central product of what God and you undertook on the day that you were born. Just as manufacturing (in our age of not-very-far-advanced technology) can pollute the air and water, so the becoming of a human being inevitably produces pain, loss, and disappointment. And I hold something of a personal conviction that those people who work most valiantly at becoming probably experience and perhaps also produce pain of a different quality than others more cavalier about their soul’s development.

    I thank God for you, Paul, for your birth and for your self-development in reflection, study, remorse, action, words, and just pure loving. I give thanks for all of it because you are. You exist; you speak, you write, you act out of everything that has ever happened to you and everything you have ever done. And that is a blessing, I believe, for all who know you, for all who encounter you and your work, for – at this time of your life – Spartanburg and South Carolina, and, certainly, for me.

    Much love and much encouragement to continue these reflections as Tuesday approaches.

    Karen

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    1. This was absolutely lovely Karen. You have so much depth and I wish I had focused on some of what Paul wrote as you did rather than turning it to another angle. If I could delete my post I would. You’re a Blessing to all who know you as well.

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  3. Thank you, Loretta, for understanding me. You know me well.

    And thank you, Karen, for your rich and resonate insights of the make-work (at times, patchwork) of this lifelong process of being and becoming, aye, of becoming and being. For you, with Loretta and her recommendation that I think and speak “greatest memories and accomplishments,” remind me that I am not as awful as I think that I am. For, yes, the labor of self-love (properly grounded and focused) in becoming can and does produce necessary pain that is deep, yet that which, too, can and does make way for one’s (in my imagination and imagery) continued pilgrimage up from the pit of purely (or largely) instinctive living to a higher plane of the integration and expansion of all one is – mind and heart, soul and spirit…

    Still, I confess, that I am one who, as I am wont to say, lives in Lent. And my namesake’s testimony to his life’s difficulty (Romans 7) is my gospel…

    Oddly, yet, perhaps, not so oddly, your reflections help me to see that this fundamental element of my existential wiring (that sees [in the] shadows more clearly that [in] bright light) is a now dyed-in-the-wool of my soul aspect of what I learned growing up in my household. To be criticized constantly (and, no, that is not an overstatement), thus, never believing, knowing that one (that I) could measure up to my father’s inordinately unachievable expectations (and my mother, though softer in her approach, was no less demanding) has left me as one who tends to lead with his woundedness. Even at those moments when, in the instant moment, I know the truth of this, it does not and cannot halt my sensing that inner desperation of unworthiness and that, even and especially, when my mind (my capacity to think and to reflect on the widest range of my life’s experience) tells me: “Paul, that is not all there is to you.” As that olden Portuguese saying has it, “a luta continua…”

    Thank you, Loretta and Karen. Always and in all ways.

    Love,
    Paul

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    1. Thank you, Loretta, for your sweet words. You, like Paul, are one of the people in my life who help and encourage me to keep striving for insight and wholeness, as much as I am much more apt to fall back on what Paul refers to as “instinctive living,” which I know so well and feel so comfortable doing.

      I found myself pondering this morning life’s way of easing us toward seeing the greater picture. I use the word “easing” as a bit of hyperbole, since life’s way of easing is not always in any way easy. I am convinced that the events I have encountered in the past year have caused me to take a different direction at the fork in the road than I might have absent the pandemic and my proximity to what I have come to regard as the current epicenter of human spiritual development, George Floyd Square, and the events that have essentially exploded Minneapolis as I have known it for the past 50 years.

      The past year could not have been designed better to communicate to me that my imagined placid journey into leisurely retirement was simply not to be. I have felt at times as if, in an interior way, I have been dropped into a giant washer and am being sloshed this way and that to get rid of the remaining stains and particles of old ways of reacting and thinking. The rinse cycle has introduced some purer, clearer understandings that I think constitute simply grace, but the washer is still agitating and I am still being sloshed around but in a new consciousness.

      I thought of my mother this morning and her and my twenty-two-year journey through her dementia. It was the dementia, tragic and agonizing as it was and is in common human understanding, that finally fully freed her from the sources of her lifetime defensiveness, rigidity, reticence, fear of not being good, pretty, smart, rich, etc, etc, etc, enough, and her hard-learned hesitancy to reach out and pull the rest of the world into her arms as I believe she always wanted to do. In that list, I include her fearful, stubborn, well-learned racism.

      The world now would judge that my mother died after a terrible ordeal, and the world would be right. But what the world fails to see is that it was the terrible ordeal that gave her the means to experience peace and enormous joy for several years at the end of her life. I was the one who was privileged to witness mostly intimately that transformation, and it took me years to see it coming. My great joy in the last years of her life was to see my mother’s genuine love for everyone who came near her, regardless of who the person was, what color their skin was, what they wore, what their job was. Her hand was out the moment she saw them, reaching for theirs, to kiss. There was always a huge smile on her face. She would simply sit and hold the hand, and gaze at them as if each were the embodiment of all that was good. She could no longer speak, but she communicated better than anyone I know. The nurses on her unit agreed, the morning after she died, that everyone – patients, nurses, cleaners, cooks, servers, maintenance people, visitors – always wanted to be “close to Allene, because that was where God sat.”

      And so, Paul and Loretta, I am trying hard to trust life, love, God, and the Universe (which are all the same, I’m convinced) to do their work. And I have become convinced that I should get on board with what they are trying to do to shape, hone. and perfect my part in the ongoing enterprise that is the evolution of Creation. My striving to accomplish (in the way this world understands accomplishment) is probably not what is needed, but my active cooperation and assent and assistance in the work of Love are very much needed, I believe. Whatever comes, I must trust it, I think. It will give me what I need, and more importantly, what Creation’s unfolding needs from me.

      I know both of you are engaged in that same effort, and I feel your ongoing presences in my life as inspiration and gift in my own commitment to it. I am so glad to be able to follow to some degree your thinking, your work, your joys and sadnesses, your coming to grips with how things unfold no matter what happens.

      Many, many thanks for your friendship. Much love to both of you,

      Karen

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