I have decided that instead of “growing up” I am going to begin the process of “growing down.” But how am I going to do that? I am going to swing on more swings!
For certainly as time marches on, it is not all about what the body tells us is reality: that we are growing up. There is also the mind. And the mind can make us young or old, no matter our chronological age.
Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s persona in his poem “The Swing,” we can be the child soaring “up in the air and down,” if only in our mind.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it is the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
But how do we so this? First, we must realize that Pablo Picasso was correct: It takes one a long time to become young.
This is one of the mysteries and wonders about time, that no matter what the keeper of the clock, the Greek god Chronos—from which we get the word chronological—reminds us about the wearing down of the body, we still can tap into the concept of Kairos, the ancient Greek concept that speaks of time beyond what we see on a clock.
We can experience time that transcends the so-called reality of time. We can do this by turning inward, to that place called “mind,” to the place that allows us to “grow down.”
The Roman god Janus (from whom we get the word January)is symbolic of this cerebral meandering. This two-faced god sits over our doorways—looking in and looking out; looking back to what was and looking forward to what might be. He is between past and present. He merely is—in the sense of existing in the here and now. He is the continuity of time, incarnated in a two-faced deity.
And he represents the concept of mind as we have described it so far: as that which moves us beyond the physical substance of our selves, to that which allows us, according to the ancient philosophical school of Hermes Trismegistus, to:
Bid your soul travel to any land you choose and sooner than you bid it go, it will be there.
This is one of the most amazing things about time and the human mind—that, in effect, we can move beyond time itself. We can travel hither and yon, forward and back, or stay with the present. We can be Janus!
Let me bring back Robert Louis Stevenson and his swing. By doing this I recall two experiences in my life that extend to the past, but are very much connected with each other at this very moment, and will be connected in the future whenever I recall them:
I am in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the very house where Stevenson was raised, on Heriot Street. It is an extraordinary experience for me. It is a message from the universe. I am at the boyhood home of one of my father’s favorite authors. At this moment in my mind’s eye, I can still see the room where the boy Stevenson slept and undoubtedly dreamed many dreams. He was one of the greatest storytellers of all time. The experience thrills me and brings me closer to both the writer and my father.
And then, five years later, and six thousand miles on the other side of the globe, I am trudging up hot and humid Mount Vaea near Stevenson’s home on the island of Upolu, Apia, Western Samoa. I am there to visit Stevenson’s grave. The writing on his marble slab reads:
Home is the sailor, home from the sea/And the hunter home from the hill.
These are the very words my father would quote to me.
Not only do I once again feel connected to the writer and my father, but also to the past, present, and future.
Wanting to be closer to the experience, I climb on top of Stevenson’s tomb. And as I sit there and meditate, I begin to cry. They are tears of joy, sadness, and gratitude that allow me to connect with timelessness. My father is here along with Stevenson. The connection has been made.
And then three years later, I am in a hospital in Washington, D. C., and standing over my father who has just died. Stevenson’s words come to me: Home is the sailor.
These images and the countless others within me that wait for my mind to bring them back into consciousness speak of the interweaving of time and memory and present reality and future hope. My memories and yours allow us to re-imagine what our lives were like before, when we were children on our swings, “swinging up in the air so blue.”
Indeed, each of us can be a kid again. Each of us can grow “down.” Or, if our minds choose, we can stay all grown “up.” Or, imagine ourselves as old and even wise. We can be any place at any time we want—reality is inside us. This business of “tick-tock” is a ruse because real time is what lives deeply within our consciousness, allowing us to transcend circumstance. For after all, each of us is part of both time and eternity.
Here is my poem to welcome that possibility:
A New Year Meditation
Bid farewell to the old year, let it go and greet the New Moment, greet the Now;
Welcome it to the continuity of your existence.
Let the past go, let it sleep, arousing it only for usefully good purposes.
Keep the future malleable, infusing wide intentions;
Reject rigidity; be ready for, surprised by meanderings.
People your New Moment with kindness and strength, but expect the variety.
Cherish the solitude of deep longing, those somber tones.
Rejoice at the silliness of your pretensions, at the “slapdashness” of your actions.
Mourn the passage of relationships, accepting the unacceptable.
Play through the “deadlies”: the dull episodes, the numbing affairs, the have-to’s.
Turn the scenario of vindictiveness around, make it speak charity, not hatred.
Listen without prejudice; be with that other person, honestly be.
Create something beautiful; use your waiting senses; fashion kinetic from potential.
Bring forth justice wherever you discover cruelty.
Accept the reality of the resolution process: that sometimes there is no resolution.
Discipline your habits well so that you might be free.
Broaden your definition of love, include people and things you find most unlovable.
Respect yourself! Hold firm to what you truly believe or hope,
Discover the peace that comes with personal integrity.
Be affirmed, but humble,
Be loving and accepting of love.
Continue the search, be open, be most curious.
Welcome the New Moment, welcome the Now!
Don Beaudreau is a member of the Ajijic Writer’s Group, and has lived at Lakeside for ten years. He has published ten books and is writing more.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com