One of the advantages of growing old, is that you can enjoy going to the movie on a weekday afternoon. A couple of days past, Nancy and I went to see the movie from India, “Lunchbox”, at four in the afternoon. We had planned, and did enjoy gilding the lily, by ordering a meal from Crossculture, an Indian Restaurant in Doylestown, to eat as we discussed the movie afterwards.
One of the main characters in the movie is an older man who is about to retire. At one point, he is looking at himself in the mirror and he says, “I could smell my grandfather as I looked at my face in the mirror. It was then that I realized I had become my grandfather. How did it just happen without my knowledge?” Growing old does slip up on us.
Eight years ago, as I was approaching the age of sixty-five, I decided to focus my creative energy on stories for the last third of life. Since then I have developed two performance of Jung stories: Imagining the World of Carl Jung and Dancing with Daemons, and a god in your pocket. These performances explore the ideas of Jung that intrigue me. Are they really focused on stories for the last third of life?
What the hell should we be focused on at this time in our lives? Grandfather Jung always said, “live your life as if you will be here forever”. I do not agree. I have not taken to a rocking chair to while away my days, but I do spend more time “understanding” the life I have lived. I also try to spend more time being aware of the life I am living today. Let me give you a couple of little stories to share what I am trying to do with the last third of my life.
Yesterday was a beautiful, spring day in our part of Pennsylvania. The sun was shining. The temperature was seventy degrees, but there was a light west wind to cool a sweating brow. For our daily walk, Nancy and drove to Lake Galena north of Doylestown. Because it was a pleasant Saturday afternoon, there were a lot of people in the park. So on impulse, we veered off the path around the lake and followed a path into the woods, away from the crowd. The path followed the stream that feeds the lake. Soon we were caught up in identifying plants and their newly budded flowers: spring beauties, trout lilies and too much lesser celandine. We found a bench and sat down to quietly to observe the life around us. A pair of hairy woodpeckers appeared overhead. We speculated if they were matting. Then, a third bird appeared from a hole in the tree. Was there a nest? What was the relationship among the three birds? An hour soon passed watching birds, insects, identifying plants, and enjoying the balmy spring afternoon.
Last evening, after our wonderful walk, I went to bed at my usual time of nine. By nine-thirty I was sound asleep, again as usual; and by three in the morning, I was awake. I got up and went out to the living room couch with Joseph Campbell’s Creative Mythology. There I happened upon his discussion of the Greek myth of Sisyphus. As you may remember, this is the story of an immortal who was bound to the task of pushing, or rolling, a stone up the hill, only to have the stone roll back down to the bottom of the hill. It was suggested that this endless task is only a tragedy if Sisyphus has hope that some day his task will end. If he accepts the unending task, he can find relief, and even perhaps joy, in watching the stone roll back down the hill as he walks unburdened behind it. Perhaps growing old is something like this, we can not escape the task, but there are times when you get to watch the stone roll back down the hill! Nancy and I have enjoyed a couple of these breaks from the task of growing old over the past two days.