Last night we walked from our neighborhood to the adjoining neighborhood, and back again. We live in a very pleasant but not particularly luxurious neighborhood. The next neighborhood over is a bit nicer than ours, if one defines "niceness" as involving more expensive homes, and more elaborate landscape architecture in the postcard-size yards. We admired flowers in bloom, trees in prime growth, and noticed, with some emotion not entirely negative but somewhat short of admiration, corner turrets on custom-home castles, curious half-timbered designs on brick homes, and the "rustic" creek which in fact floods because contrived rusticity and erosion control apparently do not go hand in hand. I am tempted to write some rant-ish piece about the sameness of everything, but in fact, the homes were in the main attractive, and the trees and flowers were in the main nice.
The main road which runs past the Kroger grocery store marked our "turnaround point". Some of the sidewalk has been configured in a curious "winding" pattern, to give a homey, village feel to new construction and built-over farm-fields. We walked past the Blockbuster Video, and paused at Green Park, the little "mowed strip of ground" park in the neighboring subdivision, where a sign told us of past glories this prairie had once seen. We saw the present glories of an unused picnic pavilion and an elementary school. I heard yesterday that our own subdivision is nearly "sold out". They call the last portion by the fairly non-euphonious Phase VIII. We live in a phase, in phases, and sometimes out of phase.
We returned to our home, where we turned on a Star Trek marathon, in which an artificial person regained the use of his emotion chip, with disastrous consequences. Star Trek always has someone "outside looking in" on the human condition. From within the human condition, we look inside, outside, and all about, at our individual masses of chips and wires and soul(s). I fell asleep utterly exhausted, just as tapes of viewers calling in to rave about Star Trek marathons were rolling while the credits flashed on screen. I dreamed elaborate dreams about people I have not met, in which I did things I never do in real life.
I awoke quite rested, but got a slow start when we proved to be out of raisin bran and out of milk. Instead of seeking reverie when we hiked past Kroger, perhaps I should have sought milk and cereal instead. I find myself constantly daydreaming about what I wish, instead of getting myself what I need. I forgot to check the newspaper to see if anyone, other than that fellow from the band, Sha Na Na, was born on August 12. I was born on this day in 1959, so it interests me, in a trivial sort of way.
I never reflect much on the birthdays that stereotypically "matter"; 21, 30, and 40 all passed me by with hardly a second thought. Instead, it is the offbeat numbers which get me thinking. Today I am 43, and I do find myself reflecting on what aging means. It might be easy to consign myself to any one of a number of hells. I have accomplished far less than I once set out to do. I appear destined to live a life which is in some ways entirely unremarkable. I am not nearly as good a person as I wish to be. I am in so many ways complacent in precisely the ways I would have thought unacceptable at 21.
But I must confess that today, I am not particularly worried about my manifold sins and wickedness, which I now humbly confess. To me, the endless procession of days (the "petty pace" at which time creeps, if one wills) provides an endless set of hurdles, that one must learn to 'hop' jauntily, or one will crash into painted wood and cheap but sturdy metal. I have hopped some 15,693 such hurdles; how many more leaps I am allotted I can only control in small ways, like diet, exercise, and keeping my head out of ovens. In this past few years, I struck out to find my independence and my goals in ways which I had only permitted myself to project and imagine before; in the main, I have proven to be worthy to the tasks I have set, if not particularly inspired at the way in which I achieve them. I have the good fortune to have a loving wife, a stable career, an absence of debt, jaunty pets, and a close group of family members and friends. This past week I have had a concrete reminder how important that can be. Although these are all "micro" things, lacking "greatness", they seem very dear to me now. If I am granted the way clear to leap a fair number more hurdles, the game still seems very much worth playing to me.
I heard a man give a talk once in which he said that he believed in a curious sort of God, which he experienced only at the end of a day, when the dusk made everything blur into one thing. That blurring was his God. I do not have a similar catchy way of expressing what it "all means" to me at 43; as the years go on, I become a bit more certain of the answers, but also a bit more certain of the unimportance of my particular expression of those answers. Perhaps this is the "gift to be simple" from the song--that feeling that meetings one's own challenges may be what one is called to do.
I feel that in my life, I am "called" (whether by God or my conscience or just my own sense of whimsy I will not declare) to do much more than I have done so far. But today, I am grateful for wife and family and friends. I am grateful for a life that does not grate on me to live. I am grateful for Texas wildflowers and the sight of desert mountains seen from mid-air. I am grateful to those of you whom I have met through LJ, and for the clarity I can reach in my thinking on days like today.
We walk from day to day from hurdle to hurdle, hopping when we can, gently stepping over when we can't. Sometimes the flowers are pretty; sometimes everything just seems dark and ugly. We fight always the twin, opposing demons of complacency and despair. But there's a rhythm in those hurdles rising before us--day upon day upon day. Today is theoretically yet another landmark, but all I see are tens or hundreds or thousands of hurdles ahead, and I must pick which tracks I wish to run. The days give way to nights which give ways to days on which more tasks are set, and my own portion is small and unremarkable. But it is my set of things to do, my set of ideas to share, and if I am not entirely content, nor am I miserable about it. I am just working on my breathing, and hoping my legs send me over the hurdles that matter.
I fly to San Francisco tonight, but my feet remain on a simple track, and there are more hurdles ahead.