When I was a child, and sometimes since I have been an adult, people would always ask on my birthday if I felt any older. To be honest, it always struck me as a ridiculous question because I never heard anyone answer, “yes, I feel freaking ancient now.”
Last night on into the wee hours of the morning elections were decided. More than half the candidates lost (because some races had independents or third party candidates running), which means that winners – as in all of life – were in the minority. I don’t know how many candidates with bad comb overs won and lost, but I would be interested as a point of personal privilege. Leading up to the election there was no shortage of divisive speech in public and private, and I suspect that after the election the divisive speech will continue, albeit with a different focus. So today, the day after the election, I have a question: Do you feel any older?
We are an angry nation. We are angry in things large and small and in things local, national, and world-wide; in things private and public, large and small, logical and emotional – in short, in just about every corner of life we are mad as hell. The evidence is undeniable. In genteel circles it surfaces in places like at cocktail parties and in political rhetoric. In less genteel circles, I see it in vacant homes that are broken into – not because things of value are stolen, but because it takes more than a little rage to flip a cast iron bathtub and then go to the basement, flip a double concrete sink, and smash it to pieces. That’s not vandalism – vandalism is born of boredom and doesn’t have that level of energy and rage behind it. So let me ask you a question: Do you feel any older now?
We live in a time of spiritual and religious transformation. Many if not most of the institutions that used to serve as a beacon lighting the path to the future have either failed us, betrayed us, shown themselves incapable of addressing contemporary issues – or some combination of the above. The spiritual groups and communities that will replace those that are now breathing a death rattle are in the process of coalescing and coming up to speed, but what will emerge is not yet clear. Many spiritual seekers dwell in a kind of limbo, still searching for a place to belong. Many of the institutions that carry terminal diagnoses are narrowing their focus in ways that draw them farther away from the concerns of mainstream Americans. When we couple spiritual transition with times of uncertainty, we struggle. So I ask again: Do you feel any older?
There are, of course, many other issues and transitions. Unlike the effects of aging (which, after all, don’t really make us feel any older even though they make us a bit tired and sore), we can reverse these social trends, we can choose what the future will look like – but it is a job that requires patience and the transformation begins within each of us. Gandhi famously said we must become the change we wish to see. Want to create a peaceful, harmonious world? Then become peaceful and harmonious yourself. Want to address the anger in society? Address the anger in yourself, and don’t cave in to the temptation to deny your own anger. Unhappy with your spiritual circumstances? Focus on your own spirituality, and find the community you need or create one – I would be happy to help you. We really can create the future, but it’s going to take focus and the willingness to work on ourselves first. So I ask you one last time: Do you feel older now?