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Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Three Ages

I read somewhere that the human experience can be divided into three distinct ages: Learning...Doing...Being.

The First Age

Learning is the heart of the First Age. As a child, I looked upon the world with absolute astonishment. I existed in a state of constant awe and perpetual wonder. I spent my days studying…everything. I wanted to taste everything – not food so much - but snowflakes, rain and grass. I wanted to touch everything. I marveled at the beauty of insects, snakes, flowers, leaves, fish and all furry mammals. I sniffed the air, the soil, my pet dog’s breath. The sights and sounds of life enchanted me. Everything was magic.

I loved school. I loved history, biology, geography, literature, geometry, art, music, astronomy, earth science, physics, chemistry and philosophy. Funny, I knew more at age twelve than I do today. The First Age is the age of insatiable curiosity.

The Second Age

Doing is the heart of the Second Age. There comes a day when diplomas are stuffed in a box, and a suit and tie become the day’s apparel. I was eager to venture into the world, earn a paycheck, marry, start a family, make a life for myself. The sponge morphed into a researcher, manager, musician, photographer, artist, carpenter, mechanic, citizen, investor, consultant, athlete (sort of), lover (sort of) and adult (sort of).

I hardly slept. Curiosity provided an impetus...ego, coffee and cigarettes provided the fuel. There was so much to do! I wanted to challenge myself, find the limits of my skills and abilities. I spent decades doing...until a weariness of body and mind signaled that perhaps I tried to do too much. I found myself staggering into the Third Age.

The Third Age

Being is the heart of the Third Age. Simply being. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.

As I mentioned, we enter the Third Age a bit worse for wear. In my case, quite the worse for wear (courtesy of two near-fatal vehicular accidents). Joints ache, eyes grow dim, ears ring incessantly. This is the age of constant compromise...striking bargains with the body. There is less energy in general; an appreciable loss of vitality...Viagra begins to make sense.

The Ego grumbles. Doing is all about “making things happen.” I was taught that action and achievement are noble endeavors, and I was handsomely rewarded for making things happen. As I grew older, much of my Second Age activity just wasn't satisfying me any more, even with the accolades and the dollars. But I kept doing...and I found myself growing more cynical and depressed. Still, there will always be a part of me that misses the praise and the rewards. Old habits, old patterns, old ways of doing things are hard to change. I think the wise Dr. Einstein was right:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a culture that honors the servant
And has forgotten the gift.

I’m trying to find my way back to that gift. What truths and revelations does the Third Age have in store for me that weren't available until I accumulated the years, the scars and the experience? I've taken a few faltering steps in my search for serenity and wisdom. I’m beginning to trust my intuition again. My intuitive mind is the part of me that “knows” what makes sense at any given moment. It doesn't seek approval from others. It doesn't get confused by criticisms and judgments (well...OK...there’s still quite a bit of confusion to work through...). I hope to use the wisdom of experience to give me uniquely personal guidance. I’m slowly turning to my intuition to tell me what I need to Learn, what I need to Do and when I should “Do Nothing.” I’m beginning to discover a clarity about what's really important to me. Robert Frost put it this way:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

I want to stop dancing round in rings. I want to sit in the middle and know. I want to reclaim my ability to simply Be. Clearly, I had it before. As a child I could let go and Be almost any time. Then I learned it was “unproductive” and started to hide it. After a while I'd forgotten where I put it, and didn't know how to get it back. I’m trying to learn how to become quiet enough to hear my intuitive mind. I want my intuitive mind to give my rational mind the guidance it so sorely needs.

* * *

I wonder where the Third Age will lead me? Will I ever become a soul at peace?


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