I’ll soon be entering my 87th year on this magnificent rolling ball of a planet. I find myself spending considerable time looking through the “rear view mirror.” I’m pretty sure many of you are doing so as well.
In this week’s column—and in the next two which will be shared with you in a few weeks—I will identify what I believe are the most significant lessons I have learned through the years. My hope is they will remind you of lessons you have absorbed. Each of us is, of course, a work in progress. Consequently, we are learning new lessons perhaps daily. Some register on a conscious level and others have become part of our lives unconsciously.
In any event, it is the lessons I am identifying that have shaped and guided much of my life.
• What I do not know is infinitely greater than the little I do know. This realization is not only the true source of humility, but the reason I have embraced the goal of being an active lifelong learner. I was fortunate to have lived with a woman for over 65 years who had the same goal.
• The natural vulnerability of childhood was followed by a short period where I wore a mask of invulnerability. After these years of immaturity, I was fortunate to learn, with the help of My Beloved and friends, that vulnerability means having the strength to acknowledge weaknesses, limitations, uncertainty and confusion. Understanding that I was—and still am—a flawed, imperfect human being was a necessary step to seeking the forgiveness of others.
• Early in my adult life I discovered it was important to live actively in the present. It is more challenging to do so now, in these later years, then when I was younger. There is the seductive pull of memories vying for attention with the real and compelling concerns of the present and future. Attending to the issues of today is a significant challenge.
• When I was in my early 30s I discovered that it was critical to believe in what Marian Wright Edelman calls the Fellowship of Human Beings. The principle of inclusion—not exclusion—of people different from me became critical to my goal of becoming fully human. I learned that healing and love is more sensible, humane and necessary for the survival of our earthly family than divisiveness and hatred.
• Although a huge investment of time and commitment was necessary. I have been able to develop within myself a special place which nourishes my spirit when the outer world seeks to disturb or torment me. My inner world is lively, comforting, supportive, astonishingly provocative and is tuned frequently to the exploration of wonder and the nurture of curiosity. Even the re-runs in my internal picture show are stimulating.