No wise person ever wanted to be younger
–Native American Aphorism
It was astonishing to hear the man say, “I’m concerned that the direction of the presidential campaign will disrupt the status quo.” Really? Oh, but of course. This is a fellow that embodies the American Dream. Went to work for a bank out of college. No dustups career-wise, and forty years later he’s a portly retiree with a portly portfolio, chugging down to Florida for the winter on his forty-something foot yacht, tying up to his berth at his private club and please, God, keep a lid on things.
The comment was made at men’s bible class, where the subject is religion, which is either a springboard for the journey into a spiritual life, or where you park your self-centered ass and take it as a given that regular attendance at the nine-thirty service and some money in the collection plate is all you need before your tee time.
Trouble is, life has to rough us up some to encourage the deeper voyage. It is said that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people who have been through hell. We could add fear of losing their stuff to the first category.
But, who volunteers for turmoil? We expect to live successfully, progressing linearly to ever-increasing material well-being. Failure is not in the career plan. Some of us pull this off, at least for a while. It serves to perpetuate the fantasy. Since most of life is fashioned by the exceptions to our plans, Western culture could stand to develop a more realistic world view. We would do well to embrace failure, celebrate it, even, since screwing up produces so much good.
Instead, we wish each other the pallid alternative: a life without suffering. Ah, well, suffering comes, anyway. Early or late in life, it comes, and Annie Dillard, in Teaching A Stone To Talk, tells us what to do with it:
In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power of evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. it is not learned.
So, what do we do for the banker? Do we wish him a continued “good life?” That’s a toughie. What’s the Vegas book on a rich dude getting into heaven? Thousand to one, no doubt. About the same as a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle, if memory serves.
Tell you what, if the Grand Supercycle bear market dead ahead takes his net worth down to the point of having to sell the yacht, ski Vail only once next winter, and maybe even give up his golf club membership, I don’t think we ought to be untowardly bummed. What I mean is, in his immense discomfort, he might become attuned to “our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here.”
Or, he could blame the Democrats.