I’m blaming this one on Brent

Perhaps that’s not fair. “Blame” has such a perjorative sense to it, and in reality I’m very grateful to Brent at the moment for the thoughts that are racing around.

Earlier today, Brent commented that it felt like I was living in a “different world.” Now you should first understand that Brent and I used to work together, shared an aisleway, lived in similar gray cubicles, had the occasional quick laugh or shared bit of irony. Our paths diverged. I suspect he’s still in a gray cubicle, although in a different building. I’m living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, about as far from a gray cubicle as you can get.

When I returned to school in my mid fifties, one of the first classes I took was a class in comparative religion. I did this deliberately. My reasons for going back to school had less to do with the piece of paper at the end than with the chance to study some of the things I wished I had paid more attention to the first time around–philosophy (and I include religion in this category), history, social sciences, and the like.

I was raised in a rather fundamentalist Protestant church, so I was quite amazed while examining five major world religions to discover that I was really a Hindu. This was perhaps not true in the religious sense. But the life I had lived and was living was a model of the Hindu life.

We watched a series of videos in the class, each focusing on a specific set of religious beliefs. The narrators were Bill Moyer and Huston Smith. Smith is one of the great religious scholars of our time, and I admire him greatly. He has apparently never found a set of serious religious beliefs that he didn’t respect and admire, and he is quick to point out the positive in any creed and generous in ignoring the negatives that have come about by the perversion of various beliefs.

In the Hindu video, Smith noted that there are four stages of life for a Hindu. As a child/young person, your obligation is to study and prepare yourself for a productive life. As a young to middle-aged adult, your job is to raise your family, earn a good living, and help your children prepare to be productive and fruitful. In the comfortable years of middle age, when you have done these things, you must give back to the community to help repay the blessings and help you have received.

So far so good. I had done all of these things. But there was a fourth stage as well. Once you have grown to adulthood, raised your family and provided for them, and given back to the community, you have one further obligation: to continue your studies and become more enlightened. The video was punctuated with pictures of very mature, even elderly, Hindus in classroom situations. Whoa! This was the path I had chosen.

I am fortunate to have this opportunity while I am still active and in good health. It didn’t come without planning, although I can’t take much credit for that. I was fortunate enough to marry a very smart guy who was as in touch with reality and finance as I suspect I was out of touch with both in those days. Ben helped make this opportunity possible.

I have since completed two degrees. But it’s not the pieces of paper. The real “aha” is that I’ve discovered how much I like learning and found ways to continue it even outside of school. I now am fortunate enough to live in the present, in this moment, with time to reflect on the past and time to fantasize about what might be.

I wrote the drafts of two poems today. One is about the quality of light on the meadow. It came from having time to read someone else’s fine poetry. The other is about the birth of Earth and came from listening to a rather mind-boggling speculation about how the earth’s crust formed and what happened afterward resulting in our assortment of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

When you try to contemplate these things, or when you gaze into the Milky Way on a clear night and really understand what you’re seeing, it’s almost impossible not to think about what I believe is the beginning of a Portuguese fisherman’s prayer: “Oh, Lord, your ocean is so large and my boat is so small. . .”

If you like these posts, leave me a comment. As you can see from this one, the smallest observation often generates a whole new train of thought. I appreciate this.

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3 Responses to “I’m blaming this one on Brent”

  1. Brent Says:

    Wow, I feel famous in my grey cubicle world 🙂

    I am just jealous – I wish I was off living in the woods. You are not missing anything.

  2. patricia Says:

    Listen, Pal anyone who takes a picture of a piece of toast is either an Andy Warhal lover or crazy or both! And someone who tries to burn down their cabin in the woods should be whomped up the head with a golf ball driven by Tiger Woods!

    Let the yeast rise and the blog bake
    and we’ll all partake
    of a healthy slice of your mind’s recipes.

  3. mklekacz Says:

    Well, I’m not truly an Andy Warhol lover, but more than one person has suggested that I’m nuts. . .;^}

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