Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Life is a Cliche

I’ve often cited approvingly Andy Rooney’s metaphor for life: a roll of toilet paper that keeps going faster the closer it gets to its end. But it’s more a cliche rushing headlong toward its sea, buffeted by the rocks of days, sometimes dammed up by them, but then bursting through with unstoppable energy, racing and sometimes meandering through all the terrains of the world, from the mountaintop where its first waters emerged out of a still spring to the coastal plain below, its roar now quieted and its pace slowed, depositing into the delta all the nutrient rich detritus accumulated during its journey, yielding new life as it joins the great ocean beyond.

But seriously....

During the last several years (I’m now 54, a week away from 55), the days and weeks and months and years do indeed seem to roll by ever faster. It could be a function of working in a stimulating job, but more likely it’s the simple and profound fact that I’m embraced by a warm and loving family every day that I come home. That’s something many others do not have. Yes, I have experienced grief without depth (but who hasn’t, or won’t?), but when profiled against the utter misery and despair visited upon millions of people throughout the world, my life is beyond good, beyond anything I could have ever hoped for.

That gives me the luxury of contemplation, which as you would no doubt hear from my family if you were to ask, I do in great quantity. Sometimes, the wonder and the magic of life can literally take my breath away; moments of such spacious serenity and transcendent simple beauty that I just know, know, that I’ve tasted a tiny dollop of the nectar. In those moments, one understands how ill-equipped and unprepared we are as humans to fully grasp such boundless clearness without being blinded in all of our senses. There really aren’t words that describe what we would be blinded by, but blinded we would surely be. Our seven senses could not handle the data dump.

But getting a glimpse of that clarity is not just seeing it, or imagining it. One is it -- if for only a piercing, fleeting moment -- but enough to conclude that it is beyond real. My West Virginia forebears would go down to the railroad tracks and scoop up spilled coal for their fireplace. They didn’t have to see any cars or any locomotive to know why it was there. There was a track and there was coal along it. So, there must be a coal train.