Thursday, March 26, 2009
I had just come out of a late afternoon meeting.
My mind had been engrossed in my work for the past several hours, and the earth had not waited for me, turning on its axis without my permission. Time rushing forward.
I walked into the parking lot next to a rush-hour street, above me hung a sublime golden twilight sky - the few wisps of white clouds looked like the perfect brush strokes of a master, painted with ease and perfection. Creation shouting, if I would but listen. The cars continued to rush by, and I was aware of a sense of timelessness, even in the midst of this busy commuter evening.
I got in my car, backed out of the parking space, and began the trip home. It was not two blocks away, when stopped at a busy intersection, I was presented with a visual, living reminder of the fleeting, struggling nature of this life we all lead.
To my left, out of the car window, was an elderly man, towing behind him a small shopping cart. He was not on the sidewalk, but moving diagonally through the gas station on the corner. He was not moving easily, not at all. Not really walking, more like shuffling, very very slowly. It was as if he was existing in a time warp that was 1/5th that of everything around him. Going 15, in a world of 75 miles per hour.
The most striking feature, and the image that is burned in my memory now, was his posture. Or perhaps the complete lack of it. In fact, his body was almost completely bent over to the point where he did not look forward as he shuffled; rather, due to age, or time, or pain, or maybe disappointment, he looked down, directly at his feet. He moved so slowly, never looking up, towing his little cart of groceries.
Hurry up, little old man. Get out of that gas station parking lot, before someone honks at you, and scares the daylights out of you.
Time seemed to stand still just then. My mind filled with all sorts of thoughts, sitting at the traffic light, under that early evening sky:
Who was this old man?
Where was he going, and would he get home safely?
How much farther did he have to shuffle to be safe at home?
Did he have family? Did they know if he was ok?
Where had he been in life?
And what physical ailments, or emotional burdens had reduced him to this slow plodding shuffle?
And then, the light changed.
I eased forward, heading home. The old man continued his slow plod, in the opposite direction as me, receding in my side-view mirror.
I hope he did not have far to go. To get home. And as I moved on, the sky above this little scene glowed a brilliant orange and red that brought tears to my eyes.
Fitting It Together
The writer and philosopher Laurens van der Post, in his memoir of his friendship with Carl Jung, said, "We live not only our own lives but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time." We are actors in a moment of history, taking part in it, moving it this way or that as we move forward or back. The moment we are living now is a strange one, a disquieting one, a time that seems full of endings."
I agree. Over the past several months, we have witnessed the sadness and loss of the death of two very dear friends. Two really wonderful men; one, Jim, passing far too early in life, from cancer. In his early 60's with way too much life left to live. Another friend, Frank, in his 80's, after a battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease that left him comatose for months, but still alive.
How might can I fit together these deaths, that struggling gas station man, and that stunning sunset together?
I am not sure how it all fits, other than to say that there is a form of great and tragic, wonderful and ominous orchestration going on around me, every day, if I would but take the time to see it all.
And, if I am a part of this symphony of life, may I play a joyous, hopeful, and comforting part.