30 Years

I lived in Boston for thirty years, nine months, twelve days, and about eight hours.  But who's counting?  It was longer than I had lived anywhere else, and although I was always (and proudly) the small town Iowa boy in the city, I loved it.  Boston was, and perhaps will always oddly be, my home.  

Now, as I sit on the north end of Whidbey Island, outside of Seattle, staring out the window at the Olympic Mountains to the west, I wonder how I got here, and where I was.  And to that, who was I?  Who am I now?  Who am I not?  Who might I be?  And what do I carry forward into the mist?

Maybe it is your tendency, as it is mine, to frame the past primarily in terms of regret.  Potential frittered away in perceived, or actual, lost opportunities.  A word unspoken, a walk not taken, a letter unwritten, a beer undrunken.  Most days left unseized, as the comfortable routines funneled into the road most traveled and averted more challenging trails.  I could kick myself.  So, here I am with my basket of regrets.  Poor, poor pitiful me.  And perhaps the contents seem so heavy mostly because, were I to have the chance, I know I would do it all again the same way.  This cheers me.

But, wonder of wonders, just as baskets have surface elements, they also harbor depths...    lower regions where lurks (dark) chocolate and assorted treasures.  So persevere...   toss off those water crackers and thin mints and have a go at it.  "Great Scott, man, you've got to dig a bit !"

And wouldn't you know, there they are at the bottom, better than gold bars:  Lessons learned.  Perspectives gained.  Wounds healed.  Fears assuaged.  Days cherished.  Forgiveness received.  Courage increased.  Torpedoes damned.  Friendships cast.  Opportunities abounding.

Folly

I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less I care what people think of me.  And I’m not just talking about my hair.  But instead of turning me into a cynic (“who CARES what people think?!!”…) it’s turning me toward and into engagement with others.  What a concept.  Rather than collapsing into hardened, guarded opinions and positions as we move toward crusty geezerdom, there is the option and the freedom to simply ask “why?”, with the “why” not springing from a need to then hijack the conversation as we may have done in our oh-so insecure youth, but instead to simply enter into it with authentic interest and openness.  Hey, if Truth exists, I’m not sure it needs my efforts to protect it.  The penetration of truth, and not the protection of truth, seems to me the proper longing and ambition for seasoned types.  And God knows I’m being seasoned.

There’s an interesting New Testament concept regarding foolishness, and it’s one that we might not imagine at first blush.  It speaks of God’s wisdom as really being accessible only to the foolish, only to those willing to enter into folly.  I know of course that everyone’s keen to hear that, and yet with the piles of so-called insight that you and I are accumulating in our modern world, might this invitation to folly be a portal?  An entry into a new dimension?  Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to be genuinely rather than commonly foolish.  So here’s your chance.

Related to this is the concern I’ve always had that, as a non-academic, there are severe limits on what I can “know.”  Restrictions on what I might acquire as “wisdom.”  But it seems to me (again, to reference the “folly” above) that it may in fact be the wisdom of God that allows true wisdom to be accessed only via foolishness.  I’m not talking about being intellectually flaccid, but instead embracing a foolishness that perhaps has humility as its companion.  Also, what little I know personally of the intellect’s cousin, Sophistication, or at least the observation of it in settings over the course of my life, is that it becomes a tiresome burden…   an awkward, life-sucking weight, always demanding diligent maintenance to sustain its image.  As maybe it is image and not substance after all.  Pity the man who spends his life in the care and feeding of sophistication.  What a boor.

But the man open to folly…  that is someone I would drink with.  And someone I would walk with.  And perhaps someone I would die with.

Gym Wigdahl

I’ve returned to the gym after a long hiatus.  (I’ll hold briefly for your applause…).  Actually, that’s not quite true.  It had been many years since I’d set foot in a gym, having for decades been a “work-out at home” kinda guy.  Yes, I had a chin-up bar, and in fact I used it.  (AND to hang my laundry).  I had a compact little program that I stayed with for a long time.  Then, I got married, we left town, and I fell off the…      spinner.

Now I’ve returned to a health club and have surveyed the scene…   

First, there are the seniors on treadmills.  We’re talking no incline, and SLOW…     like a time machine in reverse.  One 30-minute session and it’s now 2035.  But God bless ‘em.

Then, of course, there are the Messrs. Muscle.  These guys are cut, like door frames with a chest.  But some of them have morphed beyond proper proportions and resemble inflatable NFL players in your front yard, but with the air let out of their legs. 

And finally, Betty Gumby.  I’ve never seen such flexibility.  When she's in full form, warmed-up I guess, she wraps into a 98-pound paper clip.  Betty should have work-out clothes made of caution tape.  Were I to attempt those poses, after the snap you could pack me in carry-on luggage.

I do struggle with what might be my role at the gym, whether it’s one of intimidation or that of inspiration.  I would say that I currently carry those twin powers in proper suspension, deftly managing my influence, knowing that my presence could either lift or crush the aspirations of others.  These are formative moments.  We’re talking about fragile egos here.  I’ve been there.  And yet, ever since I bid farewell to competitive body-building, I’ve always known that at some point I would give back.  And now is my time.