Never Coming Back
Meditations | 002
It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien in The Return of the King
Where were you the moment you realized your old life had suddenly, irreparably disappeared? Can you remember the seconds dripping through your mind as you clawed at them, trying to hold back the tide of change as if hopelessly stanching a mortal wound? I remember trying to describe the difference between my generation and that of a younger friend once, and the only thing I could express to him was “I can remember watching the Twin Towers explode on the morning news. I lived through the world changing. You can’t remember a world where we weren’t at war, airport lines without removing your shoes. I can.” Even if you can’t remember that, you can remember sitting on your couch sometime in the early spring, each day telling yourself that probably in a week or two the smart people would have this whole viral situation under control. Do you remember the deep displacement of the moment it dawned on you things weren’t going back to normal, weren’t going back to anything at all?
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller
I’ve started to realize that the world is always changing like that, eras and powers irreparably forming and dissolving as we futilely wish the permanence of moments, hoping for the resurrection of soap bubbles. You almost have to admire the hopeless human hubris that seeks to live in the past as if we could conjure it by our desires, demanding it back from the dead. It is the work of a lifetime to believe in your bones that the present is the inescapable reality, and the spiritual pressure created by trying to inhabit the fleeting seconds before tears some of us apart day by day. The helpless feeling as we watch everything we thought to be solid and eternal careen into a new course over the span of a weekend should be a tutor, if we were humble. These are just the visible grindings of reality’s gears, the landmark moments that our grandchildren’s historians will use to chart their course across a sea of forgotten time detritus. But the pattern remains in every circumstance. We cannot go back.
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one's eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
Some lessons can only be taught in the field. Like the time I learned Luddites were wrong while backpacking the Colorado Weminuche. We camped past the 14,000 foot line at the head of a peaceful lake-dotted valley, then proceeded to watch that valley rip weather systems over our heads for three days. You always had an hour or two to watch your coming suffering approach up the draw, clouds boiling and coalescing into grey misery to soak tents and skin. You could shake your fist at the sky, but my fist couldn’t press back the oncoming precipitation. Or you could get busy making fire. Bending your head to the reality of your moment, you could build the situation that would allow you to survive, and then emerge with the sunshine stronger and keen for the hunt. Our lost golden ages of nostalgia are just as far past our grasp as the water cycle, and yet we hope against hope that we can rebuild worlds that probably never truly existed, even in the halcyon we would conjure back from the grave. I have learned from experience that the past is a wonderful guide, but only if I let it point my way to the future. Humility teaches me to honor my parents and reverence the ancient landmark, not to enshrine their days and cling to their world.
Tradition is not the worship of ashes; it is the preservation of fire. ~ Gustav Mahler
What world are you trying to live in? We live in a landscape of reality brokers, salesmen with small oases of stopped time that they peddle to us as remedies for our disillusionment and disorientation. Like narcotic drugs, they don’t truly destroy the pain, only deny it for a while. What if you faced the chaos of the new world and realized that the old was impossibly, irreparably lost to you? When the waves of pain had passed you, you would still be there. Ready to face whatever the future holds. Looking back with fondness and awe, bringing along the best and fairest of the old realms, but using them to build the new, not only to judge and despair over it. The wisest of investment advisors remind us of a concept called All Time High Net Worth, and of the dangers of allowing this number to occupy space in our minds as a real concept. Because it’s an ephemera, an unreality both in the moment when markets gap down and the moments just before, when everything seems impossibly solid and real. Raging against the moment in history where God has seen fit to place you won’t accomplish His will for the moments that, to you, seem hopelessly locked in the future. What fire have you chosen from the past to light your hearth as you venture into the darkness? Does it burn in all times with the heat and light of Truth? And what anchor are you holding to, forgotten moments that you’re hoping reclaim by beating against the tide? What if you let go, and raised canvas for the horizon?
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen [literally, “so be it”]. Come, Lord Jesus! ~ Revelation 22:20
I lost the sea last night, none of the shore’s in sight All of the stars still hang in sequences but I don’t know this sky When the tides you thought would lead you home Leave you in a world you don’t know Well, hope can be a heavy thing to hold But I know I still feel it So be it ~My Epic, "So Be It"