Monday, March 28, 2011

WINDING DOWN...OR WINDING UP?

It started before I got out of bed this morning. I woke up thinking about what someone once wrote of Thomas Merton...”never was a man so unafraid of his destiny”. That quote played an instrumental role in my journey many years ago by enabling me to think about my own destiny (that I could even have a destiny, a word I usually attributed to larger than life historical figures and not us run-of-the-mill people.), which I did with considerable gusto. I recognized, acknowledged, and claimed what I considered my destiny...a life that combined both medicine and art.

Lying in bed this morning it occurred to me that I no longer had that confident grasp on my destiny, accepting that I have been living it, and am now in those “winding down” years where it is difficult to look very far ahead. So I approached my morning journal routine intending to write something about these winding down years, and was immediately struck with doubt and misgivings.

What am I thinking?! That it is time to pack up and dust off the rocking chair? That instead of exploring and creating I should be reviewing, cataloging and reminiscing? That is absurd. Is there some biological clock that tells us it is time to slow down and look back, not ahead? I don’t think so. Granted, there is a natural tendency to so as we reach these later years, approaching work, and life, with a bit more deliberate and critical thinking, which is good. Maybe, if we’re lucky, there is even some wisdom somewhere that we can draw on (no pun intended). Yes, it is difficult to see a long term destiny when we reach the 70th decade and beyond, but that only means our energies are focused on the work in front of us today and that we not only can, but must continue to explore and create. Long term plans now span 1-2 years and not 10-20, and what the work may lack in terms of ambition it makes up for in its intensity and commitment. I once made a promise to myself and to every patient that I left behind that my goal was produce the best art that I am capable of doing. I intend to honor that promise.

I realize I have written about a variation of this theme several times over the past few years; it is simply my way of dealing with it and believe me, it helps.

Exploring and creating ends with death....perhaps.


How does that expression go? You're as young as you feel?

1 comment:

David C. said...

Your comments are very interesting. I've read works by and about Merton and find him a very complex character--a monk who was famous and whose fame was exploited by his abbey. I also just finished listening to the audiobook of Philip Roth's Everyman. The protaganist worked as an art director at an ad agency and became a painter in retirement. The novel seems to address some of the issues you raise here.