Hell is life drying up, said Joseph Campbell, and he didn't mean the body, he meant the mind.
Maria and Red and I walked up this beautiful hill not too far from our home the other day. She and Red walked up over the horizon while I wandered the other way taking pictures. Maria and Red were right against the light, they seemed a vision to me.
I am so lucky to have both of them in my life.
I walked up the hill in search of them, and after a while they came over the top of the hill and down towards me, and we met in the middle.
Red saw me and was eager to get down to me and Maria followed, silhouetted against the lush green meadow and the beautiful blue and open sky.
I felt for a moment as if I were in a movie, and I had some time to think before they got to me. My legs were hurting from the climb up and I stood still. I thought that one day my most important task would be saying goodbye, and I wondered how I might do that when the time came.
It was not a morbid thought at all, it was quite liberating and peaceful. I understand that I am in my homeward journey, the last leg. It could be a few years or 20 years, but it is still the final leg, every day brings me closer to the end of it. Someone asked me what I would say to the people who might look back on my life and judge it harshly, and I said I have no answer for them.
There is no way to publicly defend a private life, and no reason to do it.
I have fought my wars, made my mistakes, had my triumphs, learned my lessons, and am learning them still. Anyone who says a man or woman can't change at 70 is either very young or very foolish.
I have changed more in the past few years than in the whole of my life, and I look forward to changing still. I do not need to cling to dogma, or to the putrified left or the right. When I stop growing and changing my mind, and thinking for myself, I will be gone.
Consistency, is, in fact, the hobgoblin of small minds, and I pity anyone who clings to the dogma of others rather than thinks for themselves.
I am not resting on any laurels, or closing in on my passage out of the world. I have lots yet to do, and many ambitions. But they are of a different kind. I'm not seeking money or glory or any kind of power. I am free at least of those bad genes, I have this theory that the bad genes die off when one gets older, I am not seeking any kind of conquest.
Campbell also wrote that we must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. If we fix on the old, we get stuck. When we hang onto any form, we are in danger of putrefaction.
In a sense, my journey through life is coming to its end, its final chapter. In another, it is just beginning. Searching the past for regrets and disappointments and failures is a poison. I live in the now, not the past. I have a future. I am not hanging onto anything but love.
For many, aging is a time for regrets, looking back, taking stock, aching for might have been, for what it lost. For me, it is bittersweet, a time of release and the shedding of human fears and regrets. Sometimes, I think of childhood hero Clarence Darrow who disdained the idea of an afterlife. Life is hard enough, he wrote, I don't wish to do it again.
That choice – a beginning or an end, the past or the future – is up to me, my mission on the homeward journey. It is a time of wisdom and perspective and humor. Finally, I know enough things to pass along. It was just a matter of time, after all.
One day in the not awfully distant future, I will be saying goodbye.
Today, it is to live the life that awaits me, and not look back.