Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hoka Hey

In my youth the times were heady. There was a war to protest, and pictures of dead boys being shown each night on the television living color. We (my generation) had just invented sex and were about to teach the world how to live in peace with one another. All things were possible and we were immortal. What was was going to be forever. I was young, and strong and bright with the whole world at my feet.

We struggled to end the war, the killing, so young men just like us would not have to die in the flower of their youth in an unholy war on a distant shore. A war that was not yet lost, just not yet sanctified. We spit on the soldiers when they came home in our arrogance because they did not understand that we were trying to save them as well as ourselves. We could not see any possible good in young men dying.

In these times I was growing, expanding, and learning every day. I thought the growing would go on forever. Each day I would learn new things, get a bigger picture, know more....understand more.

Then for a while the growing slowed. There was less time for the sex we had invented, less time to read great thoughts, and less time to think them. I found myself learning little things, like how to fix a faucet, or how to lay carpet, or fix a water heater. My life was no longer filled with great issues, instead the issues became smaller. Where was the money going to come from to pay the insurance bill so I could drive my car? The beautiful young girl I married turned out to be less beautiful every day, and well .....the sex was not all that new anymore either. The love that was supposed to last forever ended, and promises were broken, and lovers who had become spouses became ex-spouses.

Great loves were replaced by small loves, great ideas replaced by small ideas, and great strength and endurance was replaced by an ever diminishing physical ability.

All this I could convince myself was just a break....a rest between growth spurts...until the rest became years, and the progress turned into loss. I can still remember the first day I realized I could no longer even pretend to be able to do those things that were so easy in my youth...and that I would never run so easily again, or lift so heavy a burden with so little thought again.

This to was not so hard to deal now I had realized that I was getting older. I could only hope that wisdom would replace the quick off the hip mental shots I used to be able to put on the mark in an instant.

Even watching my mother sink slowly (or not so slowly) into senile dementia was not enough to shake that inborn optimism of youth. I could even deal with the day she could no longer could remember me any longer.....not well..but I could deal with it.

Then, it became clear that that wonderful mind that I thought was me and mine forever was slipping. At first it just took a little longer to retrieve the information that used to to be instantly available. (there was so much more filed than there used to wonder it took longer to find something)....Then there were those moments when I knew I had come here for something, but I could not for the life of me remember what. Then I knew I knew that person's name, but it would not come to me for days after I last saw them. Now if I do not do something the moment I think of it, there is a good chance I won't remember to do it all. All this from the mind that never forgot anything....ever.

These days it has become evident that the end I most feared may well be mine as well. The slow erosion of mental abilities till you can no longer feed yourself or even remember those things that had been most important to you.

I remember when loved the tales of the old west, of the noble savage warriors who rode the plains shouting "Hoka Hey"....(today is a good day to die.) When I was young I could not understand how any day would be a good day to die. Now I understand that there are worse things than dying young.

I remember in the youth of my Buddhist practice the earnest drive to end desire. To stop wanting things. This was always balanced with the ever demanding desire, a counter balance to what seemed at the time endless progression of desires for food, and sex and just plain more. I looked forward to the day when such desires would end. I am not there yet, but I am close enough to see what the end of desire looks like. I will say while I still can be careful what you wish for. There is no more barren a life than a life without desire. Now I wish I could reclaim some of that burning desire of my youth, and only shake my head at those fools that want to prematurely drive themselves into old age and death.

One need not kill desire, desire will end slowly by itself of its own nature.

Now as I look forward to years(hopefully) of dwindling desire, diminishing physical skills, and quickly fading mental abilities I understand that there is no going back, there will be no recovery....and only a long slow decline to look forward to.

It is not real fun waking up each day a little less than you were the day before. Of the possible end of these declines there is not one good possibility to look forward to. As a little of what was you in your prime slips away each day sometimes you carefully look to see what there is left of you, and you wonder when what is left will no longer add up to anybody, much less you. This makes all those young ones who want to kill their ego all the more do not need to kill your ego, time will slay it for you as surely as death or taxes.

Either that or war or tragedy of one sort of another will kill it for you in an instant, and you will be gone in the flower of your youth. Each ego dies. In its own time and place. There is no need to try and kill it..the world will take of it in its own time.

Now as I look forward to each day of physical pain of one sort of another..(I have long since ceased to wonder if I will hurt today, and only can wonder where it is that I will hurt today>)..I think back on those stories of the wild west I used to like to read so much. In my mind I shake my head in agreement with those imaginary warriors of the plains. I nod my head in agreement. Today is a good day to die.

Today the sun was shining as I watched my daughter play on the playground. The promise of her youth is still bright in her eyes as the buds begin to leaf out on the spring trees. The sky was never bluer, the grass never greener. *Sigh* It would have been a good day to die.

There is some comfort though, in these old creaking bones. Another lesson taught by those legendary warriors of the plains. Even though today has almost passed, and tomorrow is only a few hours away, no matter what tomorrow brings, it too will be a good day to die.

Hoka Hey!