I want my descendants to know that I found my life meaningful. I also want them to know that I was inspired during my life to share the meaning I found. But lately I have begun to wonder why this is so important to me.
I went for a walk a few days ago and on the walk I realized that it is essential to me that the meaning I attach to my life will last. Writing books is a way for that to happen, or leaving a trail of journals that go deeper than merely reporting on how I literally spent my time. It's not that I thought so much of myself that I felt I deserved some posthumous attention to make up for a lack of appreciation when I was alive. It's more like I just want people in the future to know how it felt to be me, alive! Being alive means so much! (Attending a local performance of Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" brought that home.) It means everything I have struggled to express over the years, and so much more that I couldn't express. Something happens when we try to express ourselves meaningfully. The process of reflecting is transcendent. It's possible that I made a kind of religion out of reflection. Every word is like a tiny piece of a broken mirror.
Really? Sure, life is about dismemberment. Embodied dismemberment.
About my walk a few days ago: I sat on a stone in the orchard, my walking staff resting on my thighs, facing south with a view of the ridge across the way that rises above another old orchard through which a dirt road ascends the hill, north-south. The road passes a barn on the left and a farmhouse on the right before it turns slightly to the left, disappearing over the rise. But before it disappears there is a smaller dirt road running west, at right angles, that seems to pull the first road off its course a few degrees. This made me wonder if the two roads were built at different times, the west-running smaller road being older because the north-south road defers to it, gravitating over to it, as younger to elder. And I saw this as symbolic of something I was trying to understand that the landscape was revealing to me, in the language of Feng Shui. If we see our lives as roads for just a moment, and the landscape as our larger story, the setting for our existence, even though the road that we were is no longer useful or even rarely walked, and may not even retain its name, it still enjoys its place in the landscape, organically. By contributing to the longevity of a setting or a place, it has found itself in time.
In contrast to this living metaphor, arising out of this harmonious coming together of Earth and the best of the human legacy, a harmless road in the body of the landscape, a dream I had two nights ago illustrates how, as soon as I decide to care about how I will be remembered, my ego becomes a huge problem.
I quote the dream in full here: