Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

the numinous and growing old

After watching the movie tonight and reading an entry in kijjohnson's LJ, I got to thinking about that momentary rush of... what is it? Connection with something greater, communion with genius or something; how it's always momentary, and once experienced one always seeks it again, but doing the same thing doesn't always stimulate the same response, at least not for me. I need to have all the elements in place. So it's not easily repeatable, and when one stops getting the same emotional reward, one faces the prospect of losing interest in continuing to seek that something magical.

For me, this happens when motorcycling: Once in a while, for no apparent reason other than everything in the universe of my mind is aligned just so, I feel this surge of pleasure, and the world is brighter and smells fresher and I feel alive. When I was first riding, every ride was ripe with excitement and rife with danger; I would ride for hours on the most uncomfortable mount imaginable, heading nowhere. Now I find myself forgetting the joy of the ride and often just hop on to go somewhere and hop off when I'm there. Also when skywatching: When I was a kid, I could feel in touch with the holy so much more easily than now; now I need to keep scanning the skies past the "I've seen a blue star before" until I find that something which offers the reward. I need to remember to ride, say, out to Target not to buy something but to enjoy the sensation of moving.

I have found that patience is more difficult to summon now than it was when I was younger, because then everything was shiny and new. Now it's not just about the newness - which, itself, can be a reward - now it needs to be about the thing that really matters, the thing that woke my sense of the numinous when I first learned that I loved the thing at hand: That's still there, still shining from behind every color of star and within the surprise puffs of nebula that I discover when my patience holds; those fleeting glimpses of storm-cloud detail in the clouds of Jupiter or snow-caps on Mars; that haze of the Milky Way which resolves into millions of stars, at least in my mind's eye, when that I open that eye. It's all there, just as magical as ever: As is typical for so much about humans, I'm the thing in my own way most of the time.

I often forget the pleasure I feel once I make an engine work again, or that jolt of transcendence when I write the perfect sentence, or engage in the perfect class. I think that this forgetfulness is what drives us to stop seeking those perfect moments. Perhaps that's what it means to grow old: To lose the desire to seek those moments of magic. I'll call this lack of desire by it's true name, "death." It approaches us by inches, sneaks up on us hidden in the shadows of time and our own blindness.

I realize now that this is one of the things that made me so teary-while-smiling while I watched "The World's Fastest Indian" tonight. Burt Munro was like that, a man who never forgot the beauty and power in going fast that got him going as a kid. He seemed to possess that same sense in his 80's that he had when he bought his bike back in the 1920's. That's rare and beautiful.

Do me a favor and remember to do something today something that gives you joy.

Tags: the human condition, the self

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