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Minds in slow motion (07/08/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns
The soul is about as invisible as a flower turning a bud to fullness. At some juncture you realize that it's been transformed, but the fulfillment of the miracle is quicker than the eye.

Kahlil Gibran wrote in his infamous "The Prophet": "And seek not the depth of your knowledge with staff or sounding line. For self is a sea boundless and measureless. Say not, ‘I have found the truth,' but rather, ‘I have found a truth.'"

"Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.' Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.' For the soul walks upon all paths."

Many elderly and ambitious thinkers have perfected the art of sifting through layer upon layer of the mind, to sort out the trash and to discard meaningless, nonproductive bits and pieces. Also, with old age comes a return of childlike ingenuousness, when overflowing minds need a breath of fresh air. Debates and arguments lose their luster. Silence floods the mind with peace.

The senses turn to simplicities - a gravel path between swaying country fields, a day on the lake with a fishing pole and man's best friend, sunsets blazing on a hillside horizon, and bird song amidst the pines.

It may be sheer destiny - these tired, over-taxed minds turning to ash just as the heat of brilliance is about to burst into flame. Some "truths" are reserved for future generations. If the Supreme Being were to reveal to any man all of the secrets of the universe, the human propensity for greed and power would surely screw things up.

Who can one share old memories with when everyone who knew has passed away? Nostalgia grown sour like a dirty sock wadded up in a ball in some dusty corner"¦where can one alone go with outlived family secrets, that moldy melancholy?

Postscripts at graveside ceremonies are lost to petrified lips. Layer upon layer of stagnant emotions suck life from fond farewells. Nothing is ever the same again, once its been bled of its pain and its virtue. Turning back the hands of time is heavy work.

We leave this world with loose ends. Stanley Kunitz, former U.S. Poet Laureate while in his nineties, reflects in the introduction of his "Collected Poems". He remarked, "Our poems can never satisfy us, since they are at best a diminished echo of a song that maybe once or twice in a lifetime we've heard and keep trying to recall."

Even deep thinkers are content to leave the complicated questions of life to the poets and the philosophers. Walk backwards up your appointed mountain to note, not how far you've yet to go but where you've been.

From Stanley Kunitz's poem, "The Layers": ""¦a nimbus-clouded voice/ directed me:/ ‘Live in the layers,/ not on the litter!'/ Though I lack the art/ to decipher it,/ no doubt the next chapter/ in my book of transformations/ is already written./ I am not done with my changes."

Each life is in continual transition. To live is to learn. At ten years of age, I was moody and a dreamer in love with Elvis, and berated my parents for not understanding me. As I proceeded to teenage territory, I was rebellious, figuring that adults only complicated things, that virile, young minds knew best.

Now, at 62, I find myself reaching for their wisdom, their words and deeds. A mind in slow motion struggles to bring back what's been exhausted by long years of living. Besides, past experiences are already a part of who we are, even though recollections have vanished.

My granddaughter, six, looks at my hands in wonder, proclaiming, "Grandma, you're old!" They are, to me, my mother's hands - wrinkled, blue veins popping at the surface of thin, tanned skin. Do Mother's hands continue to guide me through the layers of generations?

"The mind loves its old home," Emerson once noted. A familiar light flickers through the darkness.



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