I find the narrator peculiarly missing from these pages here in 2012 and would like to give him some brief space. I am always shocked to discover how my path has unfolded as I near its end, how this frightened child born of the working class before the start of World War II became a soldier, anthropologist, communard revolutionary, single father, youth leader, coach, hospital administrator, attorney, thrice divorced husband and lover, yogi, world traveler, modest writer, and spiritual seeker.
When I was at the height of my legal career, with literally 100s of open cases, an overhead of more than $600,000.00 a year, a staff of five, and pain in my heart, I would frequently respond to the question “What do you do for a living?” by saying I was a hunter and gatherer, a tribute to my tribal roots and an accurate description of what I had to do to feed my family. Then, early in my semi retired Cape Cod based worldly journey phase, when asked, “What do you do?” I would respond that I was “a wandering mendicant poet.”
These days, at least before the start of this trip, I’d say, “I’m an apostle out spreading the gospel.” And if pressed, tell those who asked I was a devotee of the “Art of Convening.” You can Google that.
I am a frequently negative and critical man with a positive vision of the future who believes that some significant number of homo sapiens - empowered by the human culture that uniquely defines us - still grappling with such fundamental issues as “how do we live together?” and “where do we dispose of our shit?” - will survive and morph into a currently unimaginably coherent uplifted social order.
For me - summarizing seven decades of challenging personal survival and fifty plus years of political and social activism and efforts at self-improvement - the most basic single truth about social transformational efforts seems to be, “Be the change you want to see.” Yet like so much else worthwhile, that too is easier said than done and is but one of the many paths that lead to active affirming self-approval and an appreciation of the miracle and gift of our existence, our non-existence, and - some would say - of our “divinity.”
“Breath awareness”/pranayama, for me, helps deepen and strengthen my ability to be the change I want to see, helps built the self-love muscle, helps me to both define and obscure my ego. I practice it daily. I also deeply and genuinely feel, practice, and often share, a gratitude reverie or meditation, where the sacred solar fires are stoked in their burning with oxygen atoms six billion years old, the days each lengthening, the heart then opening. It has significance to me that two big red foxes stopped to show themselves and say hello on the winter solstice this year, that a great brown-eared owl manifested itself in flight not feet before me, that snowy owls are appearing in unheard of numbers on the Cape. I also have half a dozen dear friends and guides with serious cancers, some of whom will not be among us in earthly form for long. I expect you have such friends too. It is important to offer love and gratitude to these warriors, to the ancestors, and to those who guide us in our living with Earth-wisdom and Earth-awareness. The Earth is our mother. I try - and dare ask that you try - to work for peace, to be kinder than necessary, to be the change you want to see as best as you can, while on your journeys.
Paul Theroux writes of his later life in Dark Star Safari, “I was so self-conscious of my age that I often asked Africans to guess how old I was, hoping - perhaps knowing in advance - they would give me a low figure. They always did. Few people were elderly in Africa. Forty was considered old, a man of fifty was at death's door, sixty-year-olds were just crocks or crones. Despite my years I was healthy, and being agile and resilient I found traveling in Africa a pleasure. I did not seem old here, did not feel it, did not look it to Africans, and so it was a great place to be, another African fantasy, an adventure in rejuvenation ... Years are not an affliction. Old age is strength.”
May the blessings be.