For me, one of the hallmarks of churchlessness is being content with the smaller side of life. Maybe this partly comes from aging, but not all of it.
Yes, I recall my 50th birthday, when a friend told me: “Now you won’t worry so much about accomplishing all that you set out to do.” What was unstated I took to be, “because you’ve passed your prime and don’t have much time left.”
Well, if that was true at 50, it’s even more so at 60.
Yet I don’t think age alone explains the increased pleasure I get from everyday life now -- as contrasted with my previous drive to know and do great things.
I used to want to write books that delved into the Big Questions of Life. Now I’m content to put up a daily blog post, frequently about a mundane subject.
I used to imagine that my meditation would lead me to a grasp of ultimate reality. Now I’m pleased if I can stay awake and semi-poised within my consciousness.
I used to feel that I was destined to significantly change the world. Now I get a lot of satisfaction from making a much tinier slice of reality a little bit better.
It’s been a dry fall so far here in Oregon. Rain is coming tomorrow. The forecast is that it’ll stay for a while. That’s been an incentive to get some good weather chores done. Like staining/sealing the railings and trim on a replacement deck.
I’m good at this.
Staining takes more care and concentration than painting. With the semi-transparent stain I’m using, mistakes aren’t easily rectified. A dried drip or brush mark is going to be with us for a long time.
I tried listening to the radio while I worked, but found this interfered with the simplicity of brush, brush, brush. I was endlessly fascinated by the unfinished wood changing color as I applied the cedar-toned stain.
At times I felt that if the next moment brought my last breath, I’d die content.
I’m doing something real ... making a difference. Look at that board now! Beautiful, how the darker knot holes contrast with the rest of the grain.
Much of my life has been marked by grandiosity. This period coincides, pretty much, with my churched phase. I’m not saying there’s a cause and effect connection between the two -- religiosity and grandiosity -- but there does seem to be a relationship.
Enlightenment. Salvation. Knowing God. Perfect love. Selfless service. These are big notions. Accomplish any of them, and you’ve done a heck of a lot.
I don’t seriously aspire to those sorts of lofty goals anymore. It’s hard to explain why. Probably there’s no need to figure out why I don’t have such a strong need to figure out the cosmos.
Yet...it’s fun to try.
I used to feel that there was (1) really real reality, and (2) where I am now. Blurring (or eliminating) the difference seems to be as good an explanation as any for my current appreciation of the ordinary.
Along with the above-mentioned recognition that -- while I’d dearly love it to be otherwise -- what I do or don’t do doesn’t mean squat to the universe.
I’m an infinitesimal cog in an infinitely large cosmic wheel. Staining deck railings has just about as much effect on a 100 billion galaxy universe as anything else, no matter how seemingly momentous, I might accomplish.
With that realization... the pressure is off. And William Blake is on.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand.
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.