I've been reading through letters and papers of family members who have passed on. My grandparents, some of their generation and earlier, and my maternal uncle who died in his early 60s. Some of these papers are deeply touching, like my grandmother's school papers from her English class in 1915; some beyond imagining, like my uncle's theoretical mathematical papers. One thing comes through from the collections of cards, letters, newspaper clippings, photos and notes, it is the saturation of character and personality in all this ephemera. I felt as though I was visiting with these people in ways that were unavailable to me even with those I knew when they were alive. There is such a pulse or rhythm of their own in each person's materials.
It is so clear from these papers that we live until we don't. My uncle developed his musical talents, his brilliant mathematical thinking, his wry humor and satirical writing, his teaching, his travels, his interests in wildflowers and education. All of this ended when he stopped breathing. His friendships, intellectual exchanges, musical partners, lovers, and family seem alive in his papers, and show how fully he was living in the days he had. There is no doubt he suffered along the way. I won't get into the details here, but he also lived with a vividness and commitment to using what was in him, and exploring that in many directions. Even though he's been dead for many years, he is very much alive in the moment he wrote the letters and that comes through.
The same is true for the other people slipping out of these papers. Each, whether they intended to or not, clearly engaged in the exploration of who they might be, here in a world where they learned new languages, took on intellectual and social roles, forged alliances and relationships, and withstood the trials and stumbling blocks of immigration and political turmoil throughout the 1900s. In most cases they were unconscious of this deep personal development, they were busy living flat out in the context of the day. The phrase, "make something of yourself," applies to them all. And yet, they were busy being themselves, for the most part without focusing upon that.
The inquiry is the same great undercurrent in my life too. At each phase of my life I've been fully myself, consciously or unconsciously. My yoga practice brings this into focus. I can develop an awareness of the process, and this allows me to continue reaching into the substance of self and enables me to live in consonance with that. I know that my own character and personality saturate the choices I make, while my practice gives me a way to accept more fully who that is. I am simply and literally able to operate from a deeper place.
I feel hugely like cleaning up my act! These boxes full of handwriting and onion skin typed pages remind me that I, too, have only this string of moments in which to do what I am here to do.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Living the Life I Have
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