Monday, April 6, 2015

ORIENTATION


 I speculate that most people spend much of their lives disoriented. I don't mean they are lost in the sense of True North, though I believe many modern people are hard pressed to discern this without a Google map. I am speaking of a person's sense of place in planetary ecology, lifespan time and our Universe.
 
Yesterday I found out that one of my friends from the 1970s died in 1995 of AIDS at the age of 48. It took some digging to find this out, since 1995 was on the cusp of the Google age of searches and public identities. I was inspired in my search by the sight of a young man on the street who bore a striking resemblance to my deceased friend. It was like seeing a passing phantom of my own youth.
 
The search and its conclusion with a death record which I found on line made me aware that my own orientation is constantly adjusting in response to information and experience. The hum-drum facts of location and time tend to lull me into a false sense of security. I am a harsh realist in terms of my aging and imminent mortality, but I am still prone to drift in a mental sea of timelessness, distracted by the floating flotsam and jetsam of comfortable urban life in a developed country.
 
I realize now, at sixty-five, how timeless my mental state was in those years when my friend and I were part of a tribe who camped in the mountains and spent weekends in an ancient seaside house on Maine's coast. I was able to momentarily drift back in meditation to that mindless disorientation. Life would be endless. Love would be absolute. My taut, vigorous body would never change.
 
Remaining oriented to the North Pole or North Star does not change my ultimate course on the sea of my life. This is not a recommendation for mindless drifting, but an assertion of the special nature of human intelligence. Consciousness is a choice of active mental conflict over passive denial. Plotting a course toward skeptical intelligence and compassionate understanding against the tide of inevitable aging and death is a choice which demands constant orientation. This is a very hard choice.

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