How to Grow Old
One of my favorite stories from Hindu mythology is about a god named Krishna. Krishna is a God born as a human.
He is playful, mischievous, and full of paradoxes.
In a famous story, his mom leaves the house and tells him not to steal the household butter when she's gone. When she comes back, she finds Krishna with butter smeared on his face. When she reprimands him, he responds by saying, "I didn't steal the butter. How can I steal something that belongs to us."
And he’s right. Everything belongs to God. How can he steal what is his?
Lewis Hyde, author of Trickster Makes This World, would say that this story represents the archetype of the trickster.
A trickster is a transgressive boundary crosser who uses playfulness to teach a lesson. Krishna is not the typical trickster, but he shows it many times.
In one of my favorite stories, his mom reprimands a little Krishna for eating dirt. Krishna denies it. His mom doesn’t believe him. Open your mouth, she says. He does, and she sees the whole universe in his mouth.
He is somehow a mischievous child and a God. He is simultaneously immortal God and a mortal human. He is all of those things and none of them.
I turned 27 last week. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to "grow old" (even though some of you would say I'm young).
As we get older, we are slotted into these boundaries. It makes it easier for others to define us.
I never felt comfortable with boundaries. When somebody defines me, I feel the need to do the opposite to rebel against the definition. I think I have a bit of the Krishna trickster blood in me.
But for marketing purposes, defining what this newsletter is about... is... probably important. Currently, when somebody asks me to define this newsletter I just go 🤷.
If you have "definitions" or explanations of what my newsletter is about (or why it's interesting to you), please reply and let me know.
Otherwise, here's the indefinable...
This Week's Embrace Your Lazy
Question of the Week:
Who are you when you are alone? Is it the same person you are when you're with others?
This Week's Petri Dish
“Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good... so far so good... so far so good.
How you fall doesn't matter.
It's how you land.”
This quote is from a french movie called La Haine which translates to "The Hate." It's a movie I am revisiting because of how accurate it still is.
I've added it to my 11 meaningful movies to watch during the quarantine:
A couple of years ago a small boy yelled out as he threw a ball to a smaller boy standing near me, “Hey, dummy, tell that old lady to watch out.”
What? What lady? Old? I’m not vain or unrealistic. For the last twenty years my mirror seems to have reflected — correctly — a woman getting older, not a woman old. Therefore, I took a couple of the hops, skips, and jumps my head is accustomed to making and began to write what would probably become a story. The first sentence is: “That year all the boys on my block were sixty-seven.”
A great article from Maria Popova about the lyrical genius, Grace Paley. In a wonderful story, Grace Paley talks about how her father taught her "how to grow old." The story is wonderful and a must read.
Basically if there is a God, it's some "other". It's something that human beings can't conceive of because human beings are limited by their "human-ness". We can try to put the infinite into the finite, the indescribable into descriptive words, but we will always fail.
So Hinduism focuses on right actions rather than right beliefs.
"If the right thought is not the ultimate truth, and not the way to salvation, there is no reason to fight others whose thinking has arrived at different formulations" - Erich Fromm talking about Hinduism
The Delphi of Oracle famously proclaimed the philosopher Socrates as the wisest man in all of Greece. Why did the oracle proclaim him as such?
Because Socrates knows that, he knows nothing.
Regardless of what you believe, Hinduism suggests that you act right while accepting that you don't know anything about the world and why things happen.
Live in the unknowing, and do what's right anyway.
I don't know about you, but in these scary times ...
I find some comfort in that.
Stay safe. Talk to you next week,