Oh, My! An Aging Zen Priest Contemplates this New Year

Oh, My! An Aging Zen Priest Contemplates this New Year January 1, 2019




Dear all,

My goodness.


Oh my…

Things writ large are not particularly good. Our country and our world ever further down the road to catastrophe. As it always is. But, maybe, particularly in this moment, especially weird and terrible.

And. This past year I turned seventy. I’m rather surprised at how that singular fact has hung in my consciousness. In some ways just a mark on a calendar. On the other hand by all our social conventions I am old. Young old by some calculations, but inescapably, old. In many ways I genuinely feel the fact of that being old.

And. Of course. Dying is in my thoughts. I know we’re all dying. From the moment we draw that first precious breath, there will be a last one. But, me, I’m just a bit closer to my own personal intimate demise. There is no pretending left. Not that there’s been much. But. Today. In this New Year. I am old and death is not far away…

Me, in this moment I find myself recalling that story of those two professors at the large midwestern university. The one is bitter and resentful, knowing he should have ended up at one of the Ivy League schools. The other unspeakably grateful that she managed to achieve her dream and become a tenured professor.

I look back and feel pretty good about my life. I’ve made some astonishingly stupid mistakes. I’ve even done things that really merely calling “mistakes” is a bit of face saving. It’s frankly amazing I’m alive and doing so well. And on the other column in the register I’ve done some good. There are a couple of things I feel really proud of. A bunch more I feel really, really lucky about.

Bottom line. Lucky. In the cosmic lottery, I drew one of the winning tickets.

So… Of those two professors, most of the time I’m with the grateful one. And with all that now on to the next year.

So, among the many, one question hangs out there particularly intimate. “What will you do with your one wild & precious life?” What, with that passing brief time will I do? As the sands fall away, what?

I have small hopes these days. Mostly. I really would like to lose weight. Well, I claim I would, but there is some unfortunate evidence suggesting otherwise. There are a couple of things I hope to do with our Zen sangha. I’ve got a couple more books in me – I think. As a goal for that for the year, just starting a next one, depending on how one counts, a sixth is sufficient. I think…

Mostly I want to be a better husband. And. The cat? Well, the less said about her, the better. Small stuff, but where I want to be.

So, I look back, I look forward. And, here. Of course. I know. In the only real place. This moment.

For this upcoming year, I wish more attention to this moment. I want to let the past be and the future to do what it must. And I want for it all to settle into my heart here.

Just this. Now.

I do all this, think it, live it, recall it, and I feel one more or less abiding emotion. I’m grateful. Knowing in my bones how it is all passing, and passing away. And knowing out of the silence I must on occasion speak.

From this place I want to speak to you of the new year. And so… Ready or not here it comes.

Happy New Year!

And with that. Best wishes to all!

As to the image of Mary Magdalene and her red egg, I’m endlessly fascinated with how it can be understood. This particular version is by the incomparable Friar Robert Lentz. To purchase a copy go here.

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