My friend, Sebastian, told me in one of our discussions, that he uses his imminent death as a barricade – a shield.
How so? I asked. Please explain.
Sebastian said that it wasn’t until he knew he that he could die – and, in fact, was dying – that he began to live. The pettiness, annoyances and inconveniences that plague us all; these, he thinks of as arrows, and he bounces them off his barricade shield. Death protects him therefore, encouraging him to grasp instead the positive gifts of kindness, compassion, generosity and time – precious time – given to him by the people he calls his angels – nurses, hospice staff, visitors, student volunteers and friends who didn’t say, “I’m sorry to hear,” and then stayed away in fear or helplessness, but who came to sit, watch, listen, laugh and cry, and who placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, or gently stroked his cheek when it all seemed too overwhelming. For these precious things, the barricade shield comes down and the love of angels goes pouring in.
Researchers in gerontology and social sciences have reported that, unlike younger generations, people in their senior years, have a greater tendency to avoid things that disturb, and they tend to focus much more on positive, happy and comforting people, things, situations and environments. Perhaps seniors, approaching the end of their life, feel more vulnerable, or powerless to change the big negatives. Maybe years of life-experience have proven at some unconscious level, that what they focus on, is what expands. Why waste precious energy on people, places and situations that drain them, frighten them and make them feel uncomfortable? It’s understandable.
In my youth, I was always ready to join the fight against establishment and injustice, actively working to make things better, to change people’s attitudes and behaviors, including my own. Yet now, in my sixth decade of life, I sit here horrified by what I see, but do nothing. Oil gushes through the ocean like an arterial disaster; armies of trucks carry deadly chemicals across our country – liquids that are pumped down holes bored deep into the earth, poisoning rivers, land, animals and people – killing America; all this for the sake of fuel for our cars and factories, and for ‘clean’ natural gas for electricity; for corporate profits that allow people to retire in their senior years, live off dividends, and drive their houses-on-wheels until they’re too old or too sick to discover America anymore.
I acknowledge my deplorable lack of action to fight our current attitudes of profit-priority, mindless greed and acceptance of earth-rape. I admit that now in my older years, I lack the passion, energy and naivety of youth to believe that I can do anything to change this world. As the earth bursts and bleeds, casting arrows of blame, I raise my own barrier shield of senior age against it, and I look away. I focus instead on using what time I have left for enjoying the beauty around me; for kindness, empathy, humor, patience and compassion.
Today, as I sought to focus on those positive things, my comfort was torn, shattered in shame. No shield – no barrier – not even death – could spare the cold realization, that the place where I find the most beauty – the most comfort and peace – is right here, in my grandchildren’s faces – in all of our grandchildren’s faces.
My barrier is breached. My shield lies broken, crushed on the truth-flooded floor, staining it with a desire to stand up and do something…
Does your tap water ignite? Gasland is an urgent, cautionary and sometimes darkly comic look at the largest domestic natural gas drilling campaign in history. Part of the HBO Documentary Films Series. WATCH: Gasland: Trailer http://www.hbo.com