December 12, 2017

Circular Concepts

If you are deliberate in your doing, you can learn something new each day. Imagine the wealth of knowledge you could potentially obtain. Your last day on this earth will be your clearest picture of what it means to exist, to be alive; let us hope that you and I both will have many days to get a better sense of the picture life presents us.

I think that even now I’m starting to recognize the edges of the circle of life. Yesterday I walked across a bit of UC Berkeley campus and marveled at how young the student population looked. It was all very fascinating until I realized that if I had a kid at age 20 I could very well be visiting my freshman son or daughter on this campus—which meant that the young population I was gawking at had reason to assume I was a parent on campus. Sobering.

My friend was retracing the steps he took seventeen years ago, back when he spent a year studying Chinese at the university. Back then, he’d only been in the states for a year or so, studying abroad while his family was back home in Japan. He did the math and discovered that he’s now around the age his father was when he was born, and that was a bit unnerving.

Unnerving because he wondered if he was that far off the mark—or was it that his father, who seemed so sure and certain, was once as uncertain and ambivalent as he is now. I, myself often wonder about this. When younger colleagues look to me for career advice, I wonder if those to whom I asked guidance felt as inept. When my crazy college buddy turns into an elementary school educator, I wonder if those teachers I admired were just as questionable as he and his peers appear to be to me, now, as an adult.

I see strangers die, then friends grandparents die. Now, friends parents—and even a few friends. I think about my deceased grandfather who lived into his nineties; perhaps on his last day he knew more dead loved ones than living ones. I see my parents retire and realize that they’re now older than my grandparents were when I was born.

Each day another layer of the onion is removed. The things that are truly unfathomable about this beautiful world grow imperceptibly smaller with each layer pulled away. Over time, you can see the shape of things that you couldn’t before. That your heroes are human. That your flaws are common. That your hopes are childishly selfish. That your fears are largely self-made.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Perhaps, if we are lucky enough, we’ll have many more days to learn and realize, to open our eyes and truly see.