Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of this last stage of life and asking everyone prowling around in this territory what they think about it. Developmental theories around childhood and the various phases of adulthood are pretty well laid out but they seem to stop about middle age. We don't seem to have much understanding about what our task is for the final act in the theater of life. It was interesting to find that my book club's pick for this month turned out to be Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. It is the story of a guy in the middle of his life who gets tricked into taking a road trip across the country with a monk who may or may not be the Buddha reincarnated. It's a humorous book about the journey ... both the actual one and the spiritual one.
The book only lightly deals with death but at the end of the book, the thought suddenly occurred to me that perhaps our final task is making peace. And this is not a trivial task for after a life-time of mistakes, wrong paths and false moments (as well as all the good stuff we've done along the way), there is much peace to be made ... with loved ones we've hurt, friends we've neglected, material things that took up much of our time and energy. But, perhaps the biggest challenge is to make peace with ourselves and the reality that this gift of life comes with an expiration date. Perhaps our final success is if we can peacefully face the end of this life's physical existence.
At this stage of life, we begin to accept that some of our dreams will never become reality ... did I really want to be an opera singer? ... and that doesn't make us a failure, it simply means that other things were, and continue to be, more important. We can begin to make peace with the choices we've made and start to let go of our attachment to this world and everything we've gathered along the way ... information, wisdom, material goods. We can create our legacy by making sure that all of these things are passed on to the people who will most value them and use them wisely. We can spread our love as far as it can go and we can choose to be peaceful in all our endeavors and interactions. This does not mean, of course, that we stop living, learning and moving in the direction of our dreams. As long as we have breath, we can be moving into new spaces ... but we can do it peacefully without the striving that often marked our earlier efforts.
When I decided to start this blog, the title "Peaceful Legacies" came to me but I wasn't quite sure why I was so drawn to it. Perhaps it's just now revealing itself to me as the answer to my question. Perhaps leaving a legacy of peace is my task during the rest of my time here. It makes me feel deeply peaceful to think that.