For All We Know
Time. Sometimes the tiny grains of the hourglass land like bombs. My feet feel guided by time, sometimes I’m a slave to it, my busyness distorts its rhythm, and my denial pretends like it’s not there. When I talk to mom (95-years-old) she often says, “Oh, it’s been such a long, long, day.” Her voice is weary, like someone who has been counting grains of sand. It breaks my heart because she doesn’t want more, and I’d like to turn the hourglass over. She’s had too much and I want more. Of course, this time conundrum is universal, but it feels personal. We who want to believe in the Goldilocks’ fairytale, are always frustrated because time almost never feels just right.
Recently, mom looked into a mirror and said, “Ick, who is that old lady?” Her contempt surprised me. She followed up with the Bette Davis quote “Old age is no place for sissies.” I assume Bette and mom meant the weak and soft. Personally, I think sissies might teach us a thing or two because this is one battle none of us is going to win, no matter how fast we run and how big our muscles. Yet, when I look in the mirror, I’m not far behind you, mom. Unless the lighting is soft and kind, I prefer not to look too closely. The man in the mirror has more sags and wrinkles, and a drunken farmer must have thought it would be fun to plant the late crop of hair follicles in unlikely places. Bodies are timekeepers, truth tellers, even if we don’t want to hear it. Yet, we resist. When did it become so terrible that we don't even want to look?
Ross Gay, poet and essayist, in his book, The Book of Delights, reflects on Donny Hathaway’s, “For All We Know.” If you haven’t heard it in a while, take a listen. It will do things to your heart.
Gay suggests that Donny is not singing about romance with “happy endings,” he’s singing about our disappearance. “His is a voice that makes you realize that your voice is the song of your disapearing, which is to say our most common song. The knowledge of which, the understanding of which, the inhabiting of which, might be the beginning of a radical love. A renovating love, even.” The essence of our fear, that those we love are slipping through the hourglass and we are not far behind, is also the essence of love. Our vulnerability and impermanence are the poignant pigment of our most elevated art. The willingness to give ourselves over to that which will not last is at the very heart of our transcendence, which is to say love. Simone Campbell, Catholic nun and organizer of the cross-country justice tour, Nuns on The Bus, sees our broken hearts as potential for breaking open—making room for more which is crazy talk, maybe even radical.
I recently met my friend, Jessica's, amazing seven-year-old son, Quentin (he told his mom that I should use his name). Quentin has had multiple serious medical issues in his young life and if life wasn’t complicated enough, he’s on the autism spectrum. He’s a beautiful child who is negotiating his way through the difficulties and complexities of a social world. He is curious and, in many ways, seems wise beyond his years. After we met and had dinner, he told Jessica that he wanted to see me again. He said, “I think I really like him, no, maybe even love him.” He said I made him smile and I listened to him. He said, “It made me feel happy all over, isn’t that love?” I had no words, just eyes misty with awe. What a teacher, this child, a heart that is still available to being broken open. I can only aspire to be as brave.
Sometimes what frightens me, is an invitation for my attention. Perhaps not the “throw open the windows and doors” kind of attention, but rather the curious and self-compassionate kind of attention that says, I see you and I will stay. I will hold your hand as the grains of sand land and my hearts beats.
12/4/2019 12:04:48 pm
David, I hope your mom’s hourglass turns gently. What memorable image. We had the opportunity to see a dear friend recently—-94—-just a couple of months before she died. She was ready and not a little PO’d that God was taking HIS sweet time. Love these feisty women who know what they know!
1/16/2020 03:42:01 pm
Laura, thank you for your comment. Yes, love these feisty women--they have so much to teach.
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Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.