Banal is the banter between senior couples (and others in the free, hotel breakfast nook), as they gobble down their fluffy waffles and colored corn syrup.
Sometimes they talk about the weather, and other times, they just sit chewing their cuds—thinking about nothing in particular with moments on their life clock ticking away.
They hate each other, but that doesn’t matter, because they don’t know it. Long ago, they entered a relationship with their underlying wedding vows being, “You go your way, and I will go mine.” But, they also pulled from the boiler plate, “Until death do us part.”
Death came early and unexpectedly when their curiosity passed away and as the momentary spark of love and affection blinked out, leaving them in the same house without even one set of dreams between them.
They’ve been going through the motions, cajoled by the fact that the couple at the next table (and the next) is doing exactly the same thing. Their looks are gone, leaving them in their own uninspired recognizance in the wasteland that relationships seem to often lead to.
They have nothing to say and all day to say it. Younger generations turn a deaf ear, looking away because they don’t want to see where they are headed. Life’s downstream is as ugly as it is inevitable for most of us. To live lovelessly with someone for so long has us commit to being oblivious as we cuddle up to oblivion.
At our best, we are never domesticated—but commonly, that’s all we are: old cows turned out to pasture, ambling through a life that is empty and meaningless, as we cling to the idea that life ought to be fuller, better, or different than it is.
Yes, this is what is waiting for us—this is what is waiting for you. To do otherwise, to go elsewhere, is to be the uncommon bird who continues to create personal value, keeping that spark we are all born with alive, warm, and safe through the tempests life offers.
Eccentricity is about the only thing that will keep our tinder dry enough to continually light our fire when it wanes. Sometimes, we have to start it from scratch—and other times, when our timing is just so, we catch it before it goes all the way out. The number of times we have to rekindle ourselves to still care, be empathetic, or present is daunting—unless approached one moment at a time. Then, it is thrilling.
Waking up (which is the only way out of the mind-numbing stupor awaiting and already partially inhabiting us) is the illusion—not, as it seems, the reality. Naturally, we are excitable, reactive, and creative. But, when we get far enough from our nature, we seek refuges that are quiet, numb, and appear safe. From there, we love ourselves the best we can, funneling our ever-lessening trickle of energy toward any other zombie willing to have us.
It’s best (if you have some creativity left) to drop your head, play dumb and dense, and act like them. Otherwise, like a baby chicken with a red dot painted on its back, they will peck you to death.
Occasionally, at the end of an especially long death chant—a rattling monologue about football, the weather, or the way life is—there will be an uncomfortable silence. Every word uttered is a cry for help, but there is no help coming.
However, it isn’t just the old folks undergoing second-to-last rites.
“I went in yesterday,” utters the millennial on the other side of town, referring to his dip in the lake earlier in the week. He doesn’t need to go in today, he protests, because he’s already been in.
I vaulted out of the breakfast nook, because I was afraid that some old Finnish person would eat me alive…
I’d found a practically empty place on a vast beach, until the millennials arrived. They have nothing to say either—and unlike the seniors, they keep talking, and talking, and talking about nothing at all. This loud bond between them, punctuated by confessions about beer consumed or parties attended, is what passes for companionship on their way to their own senior stupor.
I can’t tell who is sleeping with whom in this younger generation, probably because they can’t tell either. The precision in the choreography of their banter and dance steps guarantees that they won’t notice their personal best until it is gone. They won’t notice their little lives lilting down the drain until long after they are convinced it is too late.
I don’t mean to paint a dark picture of the nature of the relations of both young and old folks, but a realistic one. It is okay that it’s this way, and perhaps best that we don’t know it. Knowing it guarantees a life as an exception—an exceptional life, so different from others, that it is beyond compare.
Keeping the spark of waking up alive, occasionally not settling for less, and getting up early enough to watch the sun rise is a decent start. Lying, which most of us engage in if we are speaking, will lead directly to being senior spooks with a mouth full of waffle—and so will settling for money, rather than following one’s passion.
There are so many ways to die, long before we are technically dead—and so many more ways to live…if we dare. No matter our age, waking up is always so close; but, it is also ever so daring, unique, and courageous.
Waking up rises out of a being daring to be. It is self-possessed and maintained at enough forks in the road to keep us interested in ourselves, only occasionally eating a waffle or spouting our mock wisdom from what the common “coma culture” offers us.
Noticing what is here, saying something worth saying, creating something bold, or just thinking of oneself as intrinsically of value and never settling for less are all little rivulets leading away from the common somnambulist trance.
Get curious about waking up, stay curious about waking up, live with questions instead of answers—and maybe, just maybe, you will find yourself, at any age, able to laugh at yourself, with yourself, and out loud at the frenetic farce that is the psychological/sociological gravity that pulls almost all of us into death before life, an automated, never present, peep show, peer perpetuated wasteland that Socrates spoke of as an unexamined life.
When you notice something about yourself that you don’t like, look closer. Zoom in. When you see something about another that you don’t like, pick up the mirror and focus on yourself. This is your life; consider what it might be like to feel it so deeply that it is a life worth living, as the reflecting pool of your soul directs your thoughts and actions—not fear or seeking safety.
The first step of settling for less is imagining that there is something you need that you don’t already have. This is the grim reaper nudging you toward your own ideological death’s door.
Instead, adopting the ever-present mantra of your own wholeness and completeness directs attention away from premature death and puts you smack dab on the path of finding, within yourself, all you “need” in who you already are.
This process of waking up is an unearthing one—archeological psychology, the underpinnings of a life naturally winding its way to spirituality, instead of just another undead muncher on tales of the past, or settling for probable (rather than possible) futures.
Know that to seek salvation is to miss it. Know that you are already saved—and that all hiding, no matter how subtle, is on the other side of your salvation…and is not salvation itself.