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Today we continue with our late autumn theme of “Death and Life”with Brock Haussamen’s thoughts on aging. In the comments below, share your thoughts about how the aging process has affected your spirituality.
“My heart pumps in, pumps out, pumps in, while the seasons pump the life of the planet, year in, year out. The globe’s temperature, moisture, and light pass by in a rotation that brings forth sprouting, blooming, fading, dormancy, sprouting—the cardiac coordination between the planet and its life.”
Age: 68. These days the seasons are less like a perfume to me and more like a clock.
When I was young, autumns were my favorite–painfully romantic, full of yearning and the future, life-enhancing and lonely at the same time. The smoke in the air and the cold freshness made me want to run around, run anywhere. I loved playing football because it required running around fast and then falling on the ground, a favorite activity of boys which I think remains the basic appeal of the sport.
Each season had its flavor and power. Winter’s were perhaps the mildest—cozy, private, a little claustrophobic. Spring could be “the cruelest month”—I think it depended on how my love life was going—but the renewal everywhere made me lightly happy. Summer brought its sex appeal, but the absence of school was a real emptiness. I couldn’t live up to summer’s fullness and high expectations. When the Beach Boys sang, “There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues,” I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
These days, decades later, either my senses are declining or sheer repetition has taken the intensity out of each season, or both. Though autumn is still my favorite and summer still less than idyllic, now I’m more caught up in watching the plants grow and fade and feeling in awe, not so much of the season itself, but of the inescapability of the changes, the daylight lengthening or shrinking, the air turning warmer or cooler. Lovely as it all is, it’s the relentlessness of the cycle that gets to me now.
Sometimes I think, one less summer left, one less autumn to go.
The other rhythm I’m aware of these days is my heart’s. It has been irregular for periods, enough so that I no longer take it for granted when it’s regular. As this autumn was coming in, it struck me that the seasons also are a heartbeat. My heart pumps in, pumps out, pumps in, while the seasons pump the life of the planet, year in, year out. The globe’s temperature, moisture, and light pass by in a rotation that brings forth sprouting, blooming, fading, dormancy, sprouting—the cardiac coordination between the planet and its life.
My heart will run down—is running down—my seasons will run down and run out, but my inclusion in the endless beat of the seasons all these years—the inclusion of every living thing in the rhythm that carries us along—has been a taste of immortality.
Brock Haussamen: I grew up in New York City and now live in New Jersey, where I taught English for four decades at a community college, a profession I found varied and rewarding. I’m married, with family in the area.
I retired in 2006 in part to fight poverty as best I could, at every level I could–locally, nationally, and in Africa. I’ve become a local volunteer and on-line advocate and along the way have learned fast about the economic, political, and legal issues that accompany poverty.
I also found myself thinking more about the central questions that catch up with us sooner or later: What is my purpose? How will I face death? What do I believe in? I have always liked the descriptions from science about how living things work, about the history of the earth, about the nature of the cosmos. But I could not put those pictures together with my questions. Gradually I came to see that life’s history over 3.8 billion years stood inside and throughout my being and constituted my livingness at its core. In my blog at threepointeightbillionyears.com, I’ve been exploring the variety of ways in which our experience is anchored not just in our evolution from primates but in the much longer lifespan of life itself.
Next Sunday, we continue our theme of “Death and Life” with NaturalPantheist: “Thoughts on Death and the Afterlife”.