I’m getting old. I’m not totally old yet – I still rock on with what needs done, my brain generates material and I’m staying on my feet. Still, I can tell I’m slowing down. My beard is elder-gray; my more-tenaciously-dark hair is graying (and fleeing). The aches and pains that were a cliché are now a reality.
As I usually say, if one is lucky, one gets old. One of the goals of traditional magic has always been to extend life. For a Vedic yogi “immortality” meant a lifespan of 100 years or more, as average lifespans of 40 or 50 years rolled on by. For many of my generation, and many more of those just following, 100 years will be achieved by the magic of modern culture and scientific medicine, far more effectively than it was ever managed by sorcery or alchemy.
But, as they say, “Eat right, achieve wisdom, die anyway.” Our spans are not determined by our effort, but by the capricious (or sneaky) cutting of the thread, the song ended in a half-measure, the nail-flick of a passing giant. To this annoyingly unfair reality, we can only respond with resignation. Our fate is not in our hands.
I’m a young boomer, and my generation is beginning to fall to those thousand natural shocks one hears of. People I have considered my elders have passed. Funny, my life of magic and religion has led me to understand their death as a rising in glory, a lift from illness and failing flesh to a spiritual presence. Isaac, Morning Glory, Don, Sparky, more – it would be a bitter season if I didn’t treasure their spirit in death as surely as I did in life. Nevertheless, I love life and the world very well indeed, and intend to get as much out of this ball of nerves as my time allows.
“Youth is wasted on the young” dem say. I say “Wisdom is wasted on the old” – once you know what you should have done, the time, or ability, has passed.
What have I learned as I have grown older? First, I learned that life is hypnotic. The tick of routine, the enchantment of the habitual patterns of thought and image in one’s mind can allow the days and weeks, even the years to roll by. Once again the cliché becomes reality – the subjective time between Samhain and Samhain has become an hour where once it was a decade. At that pace, my kin, you can bloody well miss something! Like, say, your 40s – especially when the added pressure of establishing full-scale adult life is added to the mix.
That’s my message to youth – pay attention, and go for what you want! Examine your heart, and go for what really moves you. So many elders return, in their later decades, to the dreams they had when they were young. Don’t wait! Try now, when you’re young and strong. Strive, fail, strive again; change directions, win, gain, strive, fail, then win.
Watch the days as they happen – don’t patience your way through shit you hate to get to the weekend, if you can help it. Make sure there are things in your days you love, as well as the things you decide you must do anyway. And when you have time for yourself, use it. Read, motherfuckers. Make a pact with yourself to read a book a month for life – nothing relieves ignorance better. I suspect many readers here are occultists of one sort or another. If you’re a young occultist, get busy – start now and use the time. Likewise, meditate. Stop whining and just do it. You don’t even have to get off my lawn, if you’ll meditate…
Most important, spend time in your body, in the real world of flesh, and not just in the contents of your head (this may well be me advising my own younger self, here, ymmv). My third cliché that happens to be true – stop and (smell) the (roses) (insert fave activities…). Slow down for a few minutes a day to just dig something cool. You know what ‘dig’ means, my kin – it means to get down in it. “I wanna get my hands dirty with that…” Getting down into something – even for a few minutes, slows time again, makes a moment like a week, and adds years to your conceptual lifespan, in retrospect.
Finally, to readers who are Pagans I’d say we have more reason to be happy with our situation in N America than at any time since the beginning of our movement. The first wave of our founders is passing, though it is not past yet. Nevertheless if the work is to continue we need those who are 20+ and 30+ now to step up for 20 years of solid organizing. There’s no help for it – this is different from the work of one’s spiritual path, more like a combination of politics and drudgery. Nevertheless, if we are to establish social institutions to support modern Paganism, that’s what will be required. I hope that the first wave will leave some solid inheritances for those who come after.
If I’m lucky I’ll get a couple more decades of useful work out of this lifetime. By that time these young button-pushers better get in line…
But by all means, enjoy the lawn.