I mentioned the old man. He told me his life story. I recalled one scene with him so far. There is more.
He told me so many things about himself. I find it overwhelming to recall it all. Some stories are more vivid than others. Some hit home with me.
My old friend lives in a small house in the foothills of the mountains. He lived there for many years. He built the house himself to have a place from which he could contemplate the world through the eyes of generations, through literature. He craved companionship, but craved, craves the infinity of thought even more.
He said, "In spite of my love for life, there is also, running beside me, an infinite sadness, always there, which threatens to overtake me, to kill me were joy not kept in balance."
"So," I asked, "what drives you to this extreme of precariousness in your life? There are many more stable choices, many choices of life paths which offer stable and safe lives."
"Well," he replied, "I have had the chance to meet thousands of people, to imagine what it is like to live a thousand lives. With every meeting, with every experience comes increased awareness, comes greater clarity of the interconnectedness of all;,the pieces of the puzzle fall together. My soul has been on earth only once that I know, so, in case it is my last, I long to experience everyone and everything, as much as I can, as much as possible before I go. This experience comes in active life, by doing, as well as through literature."
"Do you know the painting of life by Paul Gaugin?" I asked. "In that painting he shows, visually, the symbols, people, as they progress from life to death, and in the corner of the painting, in the top left, there are the questions that dominate his mind: 'D'ou venons nous? Que sommes nous? Ou allons nous?' Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? These seem to be similar questions to your own, although, perhaps, posed in a different way?"
"Yes," he replied, "and my life has been shaped to further accentuate the need to answer those questions.
"Certain events occurred in my life, never mind what at this moment, but certain events sent my mind off to search for heaven, and in that I mean, connection with ... well, something greater. Call it love, or god, or understanding, or experience or whatever, but I was, and have always been, driven in this way. I have felt myself trapped between worlds, between the world of mortals and the world of spirits. It has been a complete waste of time to try to explain this to anyone, but you, my son, you seem somewhat capable of understanding.
"I became trapped between worlds, forever an observer, living in spiritual light. I feel the spirit as well as the mortal. I know souls intuitively and that has created grave mortal difficulties when I have tried to linger in their world, yet it is that very understanding of souls that has led me to this place. Yet it is the place whence I come to understand them, this middle ground, that has led me to so much frustration. You see, I am disconnected from both worlds, and thus I have no place in eithe, placeless, disconnected."
I took a deep breath and remained attentive. I had heard so much of this man's inner thoughts and feelings that I worried somewhat. Worried about what I did not know.
"There is the void," he said, "which I try forever to fill, yet it is depthless, and all of my efforts go there. It makes me think that wanting for death is no different from wanting for life, as of course they are intimately entwined, they are forever bound together, and to fear the eventuality of death is thus to deprive the richness of life. So rich an experience it can be.
"There was a time when I thought that the world was a heavy place, when it was a place of infinite sadness, of chains, of limitations. It is hard to say when exactly the transition occurred, other to say that it was an evolution of thought, and thought is boundless. 'Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.'
"It was wonderful to sit in Sirius' disk all night and to soar the universe in a flight described so well by Robert Frost, but there is still the Earth, and there is still love and to both we still do cling. Flying in disconnected thought is a visit with the gods, in their domain, but we are but mortal and the mortal experience is so richly enhanced through love, yet here is the common error: to believe that the love is found somewhere outside of self.
"Imagine the destructive fear that comes with depending on someone else for the love that you are missing in your life. To believe that someone else is out there, responsible for you and responsible for your problems. The common error, indeed. So much struggle indeed, in the name of love, in the interest of feeling more connected and more a part of the world and a part of self. What a terrifying thought to put all of that in the hands of someone else. What a cop out to feel that someone else will take care of you -- welfare state, clinging to parents, hanging on lovers.
"This is not to say that we should be islands, no, but rather vessels within the fleet, we learn from the others, yet have our own course to sail. A relationship with someone is an opportunity to confront self and in so doing the greater depths of love can be explored as blocks to the flow of love are brought to the surface, challenged and, hopefully, dealt with.
"Can their be anyone more loathsome than the clingy dependent? Can their be anyone more loathsome than the "I don't need anybody" emotional survivalist? Somewhere there is balance, the path to balance has begun with the choice to take responsibility for one's emotional self and to learn from others in the quest to unblock the flow of love.
"Flow of love is indeed what it is. For when love is blocked there is a dammed build up of tension, frustration, heart attacks and ulcers. When flow is restored there are endorphins, euphoria, agility and joy. Again, remember the common error of turning to others FOR love instead of turning to others to SHARE love."
format modified March 7, 1999