"Of all the streets that blur into the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone
Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
For all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life."
- Jorge Luis Borges
As I face cancer surgery on the 19th, I reflect on limits and what the poet, Borges said of them.
I believe there are no limits to certain things but those that we place on them ourselves.
But there is a limit to the lifespan of those we love.
That those lives are limited makes them more precious due to their transitory, fragile nature.
Our own lives have an expiration date.
There is a foreclosure notice in the mails for each of our lives. Soon or late, the postman will come whether we want him to or not.
To be aware of that is to savor each moment, to make life more not less.
I have counseled many whose last words to a family member were hurtful. They said them, not realizing that person's shelf life was nearly up.
Jorge Luis Borges is one of the founding fathers to what is called Magical Realism.
And I pray each day to keep a child-like sense of wonder and surprise of life. :-)
Scents and touch can trigger so many latent memories. I believe Jorge was trying to remind us not to take anyone or anything for granted.
All flesh is grass and no bloom remains forever.
But there are other limits denied that saddened me:
Childhood has an end. Yet some parents try to keep their children dependent all their days, crippling them.
Some look in the mirror and see wrinkles as dreaded signs of the end of youth. They deny with bo-tox or surgery.
They do not realize those wrinkles are signs of things lost, prices paid, and the eyes around which they lie are the wiser and kinder for the loss ... and the gain.
Passion has an end. Men race to another woman to regain it. That passion too ends.
Their lives become a futile chasing after illusion.
The men do not realize that though passion ends, something deeper more lasting, more rich evolves from the slumbering passion into the love of two souls grown into one.
I believe that limits guide us. They do not diminish us. They are signposts to better paths.
"The free, exploring mind is one of the most valuable things in the world," John Steinbeck.
Franklin Roosevelt wrote,
"To reach a port, we must sail ... sail not drift. We must measure our course by stars we will never be able to touch."
We are limited by the finite grasp of our mind. To be aware of that fact is to enlarge the grasp of our minds not diminish them.
T.S. Elliot wrote:
"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
The journey is one of loss ... loss of innocence, loss of our arrogance, loss of our rigidity in our "rightness."
Andre Breton said,
" Perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring, doomed to try and learn what I should simply recognize, learning a mere fraction of what I have forgotten."
Limits forge who we are in our thinking.
What you choose to focus your mind on is critical because you will become what you think about most of the time.
No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed.
No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined.
No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is funneled.
No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined, limited.
The first rule of focus is this: "Wherever you are, be there."
The second rule of focus: "What we focus on expands."
Mark Twain's rule of foucs : "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape."
The fourth rule of focus:
"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
So to be be aware of limits is to extend, not shorten, the reach of our mind and our lives. To make them burn as flames.
The ghost of Mark Twain urges me to ask you to focus so that your life does not escape you.
Elu smiles at his white friend and merely says, "We do not change as we grow older; we merely become more clearly ourselves."
Once Hibbs, the cub with no clue, asked The Turquoise Woman, "How does one become a butterfly?"
She answered softly, "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."
*Pietro Daverio: "Eternity".
Allegorical caryatid from the Monument to Charles Borromeo in the apse of the Cathedral in Milan (1611).
The statue holds in her hand the ouroboros (the snake eating its own tail), a symbol of eternity. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto, July 14 2007.
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