Aging is like entering a Hall of Mirrors. The body undergoes rapid distortion. The present melts into comic and hellish reflections. You laugh, but you want to cry. Reality is stripped of its rigid adherence to a single form. You emerge as a multitudinous distortion. There is a reluctant acknowledgement of the fragmented nature of all things. Maybe this is some kind of enlightenment? A surrendering of sorts? A release of the need for a fixed position in the experience of existence.
Holding onto anything is exhausting and sooner or later one finds that holding on has become a habit. Sometimes we refer to this as endurance.
Youth is the vigour of life in full bloom. A sweet and beautiful reminder of all that is good. A boundless time in which eternity feels real because the body moves with such ease through the world that anything is possible. We are, then, an expression of the elegant logic of being. So we move on, around the sun, again and again … and find ourselves one afternoon, suddenly tired. The shadow we cast does not stretch as far as it used to. Gravity feels stronger than eternity.
Life is a mighty force contained in our physical form. Briefly, force and form find equilibrium. We run, we are limitless, we fly. Gradually, the fragility of our form begins to show. Life, once all-giving, seems to slowly recede, taking parts of us with it: teeth, joints, people, places, dreams. One atom at a time, over time and bit by bit we experience subtraction. We are compelled to minimalism and to accomodate this shift we slowly retreat from the world until we are away from the noise and the bustle, in the high tower of Self. We gather memories like feathers hoping to feel again the delight of flight.
We gather them up and stitch them together to make wings we hope will allow us fly. Like Daedalus and Icarus we survey the vast landscape upon which past dramas were played out.
And of course we never fly. But, it is essential that we never lose hope of taking flight. Hope is the air that fills the sky, but also permeates the earth. Air.
Way back, beyond the reach of living memory, things were different in this world. It’s hard to believe or even imagine how they could be, but they were. The present, after all, is not a solid thing. It is like an invisible curtain we are constantly walking through. We seem to be always peering through it, into a room we never quite enter. So we grasp onto the notion of permanence despite a deep knowingness that nothing endures. This is why we love stories. Stories soften the blows of uncertainty and remind us that we will be alright in the end. Stories cut through the illusions that might otherwise bind us. Take for instance the story of The Raven.
Those noisy black birds that seem to taunt you and strut around like they’re untouchable, they have their story. Legend has it that ravens were once tasked to protect the wisdom of the world. For centuries they fulfilled their duty as the gatekeepers of this wisdom with courage and great nobility of spirit.
Then, one day a dispute emerged between the ravens and the humans. Humans, like ravens, were quick learners, equally intelligent but more arrogant than their counterparts. They challenged the ravens to step down from their assigned role, believing that they were better suited to protect the wisdom of the world. Rivalry between humans and ravens escalated quickly. There had been harsh words before, and words are only words, but they soon have way to violence. The first act of cruelty was quickly avenged and there’s no stopping anyone who feels justified for their brutality. The kingdom came to the brink of civil war. Faced with the potential destruction of the kingdom, the emperor summoned the humans and the ravens to attend an important meeting. Each side arrived convinced that they were right and that the emperor would rule in their favour. The emperor passed a decree which is still in force today. He proclaimed that henceforth all humans would lose their memory of the wisdom of the world or that it even existed, and that the ravens would forget their language except for the vowel sounds: a, e, i, o and u. The key to lifting the curse for both the ravens and humans lay in the form of a specific arrangement of vowel sounds. This curse would be lifted on the day that the humans heard and understood the coded message uttered by the ravens. Since then, sadly, humans have forgotten to listen while many ravens have given up trying to be heard. However, some days, if you are attentive, you will hear through the raven’s caws those letters: a, e, i, o and u. Sometimes you will notice how the ravens appear to be trying to get our attention.