I remember Malissie Pruitt, wife of Elder Millard Pruitt, mowing the lawn after dark carrying a flashlight. Her reasoning, "There's not enough hours in the day." Now that I'm approaching the age she was then, I understand her meaning better than ever before. I feel like I'm racing the clock all day long and into the night, forcing myself to desist whatever it is that's pulling me like a fake rabbit at a dog race to get all that I want to do done before the end of the day. I've heard people talk about being busier than ever after they've retired. I'm there. I heard myself attempt to explain why and got all twisted up in the inexplicability of it and let go of trying to analyze it. It must be a natural process in the later years. All the years of working at a job, being too tired to do much that I wanted to do, or too distracted, too little time. Now I have time to do what I want to do and there is so much it keeps me going every minute. I need all my time awake to get it all done. At the same time I allow myself to not get wound up over any of it. Just because I want to do it, like writing this for one, doesn't mean it must take over and command me. Like a mountain musician, I write this because it's fun, I enjoy it. It's my form of making music.
I like the freedom of not having to do anything I want to do in the course of a day. Say something comes up and I have to be someplace else about something. No problem. That's part of it too. I tell friends I take to the waterfall that the falls are the turn around place in a walk through Blue Ridge Mountain forest. It's a beautiful walk, both directions. Coming back we see the same as before, but from the other side and moving the other direction, making it totally different. The walk back is the same as the walk there. I'm living a more or less solitary existence now, but it doesn't feel like it, because I'm constantly communicating by writing this, going through emails, painting, even watching movies. During trips to town several times a week I see people I know and visit for awhile. In fact, I tend to see my time as almost entirely social. I do like visiting with my friends and people I know pleasantly in passing.
I've learned through the course of my lifetime heretofore that other people is where it's really at. French philosopher Sartre is famous for a line in one of his plays called No Exit, "Hell is other people." I have to differ. Hell can be other people. Hell can be oneself. In fact, that's where I'm inclined to see it. If the kingdom of heaven is within, then it would seem to follow that the darkness of hell is within too. I suppose it could be said hell is other people where there is no love. In our dark time, there isn't a great deal of love being used as a guiding light. My understanding of the gospels is calling our attention to the importance of getting along with other people. We have inner peace when we're at peace with the people around us. Until we're at peace with the people in the world we live in, starting with next door neighbor, neighbor in traffic, the neighbor in the next seat at a concert, at home, out in the world, it's all the same.
In the early years on my inner path attempts to come to terms with Love, what that means, all the different meanings, never got anywhere. It was like trying to get through a door locked from the other side. Until one day reading I came upon a definition of love I thought I could live with, understanding. To understand is to love. I found in understanding a view of the incomprehensible that then opened new understandings of the word love as a living energy or flow or guiding light. It was then I was able to follow that light. Suddenly, I saw it practical, simply good sense. When we treat other people right, they treat us right in turn. When we're treated right everywhere we go we feel comfortable and at home. I never bought, "It has a spiritual meaning. It doesn't apply to this world." I maintain it has everything to do with this world. Isn't the point Peace On Earth? How else do we get it other than treating other people right? By "right," I mean with basic human respect.
One guy I know carries a gun at all times because he has made so many people so furious they threaten to kill him. What fun is that? Constantly wary of getting shot by surprise. It doesn't make for inner peace. When I think of keeping a loaded gun nearby, inner peace goes away. The old question from childhood I couldn't answer then, but after a lifetime have come to a way of seeing it that tells me not to entertain fears of surprise attack. Old guys get knocked off here every once in a while by young dopers looking for money or something to sell for money. Is it better to kill or be killed? For a long time I automatically picked better to kill when it's that or be killed. But I'm of another mind now with a little bit of understanding of karma and inner peace. I kill somebody and guilt flushes inner peace, even if declared self-defense by law. There's no avoiding guilt. I'd rather not carry the memory of the moment in the front of my mind all the rest of the days of my life. I believe I'd rather take the bullet between the eyes and go on to gloryland. What's so bad about that? We long for it and sing nearly all our hymns about going there. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct we carry as strongly as any creature on the earth. It's wired into us and gets us through a great deal safely. But ultimately, I suspect it's something that needs transcending like all the rest of our self-centered behavior. How? Don't ask me. I don't have a clue of any sort.
I tend to see the scripture teaching us the importance of living among other people in peace. That is, if peace is what we want. A lot of people don't want peace, won't have it, won't allow it. It doesn't mean I can't live in peace just because others are acting out invasive egoism. I don't need to partake of it. The decision is mine. I don't ever want to face a kill or be killed moment. I've an idea that without time to think about it, I could act out rashly. I do know that if I'm backed into a corner, I come out of that corner whatever it takes. I really don't want to be tested. Don't like those kinds of moments. One of the more important teachings I've learned along the way is to go in peace. A peaceable action reaps a peaceable return. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Peace on earth, good will toward men (others), is one of those sayings like, Don't worry, be happy. It has meaning backwards as well as forward. Be happy, don't worry. Good will toward others makes peace on earth. Worry cancels happy and happy cancels worry. It's my choice which way I want to go. I can't do anything about peace in Afghanistan, but I can do something about it right here in my own life.