Slowly, Slowly Becoming Conscious
I tend to bolt my food — and then, when there are two bites left on the plate, I remember to slow down and chew. Perhaps if I said a blessing before the meal, I’d be more aware, but that impulse is usually overshadowed by the pouring of wine and the arranging of napkins and forks. Of course, slowing down and chewing would be much better for my health than swallowing it all down like my dog . . .
Seventy years old and I’m still learning how to eat.
Often, after I’ve said something — especially to my wife, to whom I say far more than to anyone else — I replay my careless manner of speaking and regret it, sometimes to the point of apologizing. If only I could shape my speech more consciously, the way, for instance, that I try to shape my voice when I’m singing . . .
Seventy years old and I’m still learning how to talk.
I periodically think of the story of how John Lennon met Yoko Ono through her artwork, consisting of a ladder that he climbed to reach a telescope, and when he looked through the eyepiece he saw“YES” written on the ceiling. He was so moved by this that he asked to meet the artist, and their love affair proceeded from there. This story comes back to me when I say NO, knowing I should say YES, to nearly any opportunity that involves other people — that is, whenever I interpret “opportunity” to mean “responsibility” or “bother,” and I say NO even when I know that YES would make me happier, more successful, more loved . . .
Seventy years old and still learning how to decide.
When I was a young man in need of instruction, correction or authentication, the universe somehow would provide it. Synchronicities galore! The time I had a fiction about human cloning accepted by the Village Voice — only to meet another writer with my name, a gay journalist with my name, who taught me about the actual mission of being a writer, the actual value of a byline. Or the time I learned that the baby we were about to adopt was twins — my goodness, would we be able to handle twins? — and we promptly met eight sets of happy twins over the course of the next week. There were lots of experiences like these in my twenties and thirties, mystifying and crystallizing, all at once.
Seventy years old, now, I’m hungry for such signs and miracles — but I’m already shaped, stamped, hardened. What I need now is simply mercy. Especially from myself, towards myself.
I have two new books out: AMERICAN TORAH TOONS 2, artworks that respond to Biblical texts with humor and self-reflection, and MY STUFF, coauthored with Mikhail Horowitz and Carol Zaloom, a gallery-in-print of our most treasured possessions and the stories of how we came to possess them. Please check them out by visiting here.