Third Phase. Fourth Phase.

Samain and the Holiseason Moon

Thursday gratefuls: VRCC. Cytopoint. Kate, always Kate. The coat of many colors she made for Joe. Cold weather. The mini-splits, opening their vents, closing them. On their own. One project finished and paid for. Life without Kate. Life. Just life. Mark and Mary. Diane. Roxann. Mourning her mother’s death. Tom, beside her. The waxing crescent moon last night with Jupiter and Saturn. Marilyn. Irv. Jon, feeling better. Jamie. Tara. Rich.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Jupiter and Saturn.

Tarot: The Hermit, #9 of the Major Arcana


We’re at the Four Funerals and a Wedding phase of our lives. Each time we turn someone has died, someone has lost a friend, a parent, a sibling. Both the privilege and the burden of aging. In the first two life phases we concentrate so much on getting. Getting educated. Getting a job. Getting a family, a house, a new car. A 401K.

In the Third Phase, that now longer and still undefined time after all that getting, we begin to practice losing. Dissavings is an ugly word for drawing down the resources you just spent 40 plus years accumulating. We lose hair color, in my case eye color. Our bones get fragile and our muscles weaken. Hearing can go. Mine left for the most part. Early in the Third Phase there may not be so many funerals. As it continues, they begin to mount.

If you enter sannyasa, the fourth phase, as I feel I have after Kate’s death, those losses come to your own home. Each time we have to reorder our inner and outer lives, yes. The Fourth Phase requires a change of life changing proportions.

I mourned. Then, I grieve. And, will until my fourth phase ends, my ashes in a jar. Sprinkled at the headwaters of the Mississippi. Joe and Jon, Ruth and Gabe’s choice.

We lose and lose and lose. Yet. It feels also like cleansing, like purification, like a vocation. Stand witness. Re-member those who’ve died. Be there for those left behind.

Ovid in Constanta

Though I don’t feel this way, I think often of the Roman epitaph I saw in Constanta, Romania: I was. I am not. I don’t care. That stoic attitude has its own truth. It could also read: You were. You are not. You had no choice in either case. This one I do believe. Or, the Mexica: Life is a dream between a sleep and a sleep.

Life in this Malkut, this realm of the Shekinah is a gifted and temporary thing. We lose it easily, often just as easily as we got it. This happens over and over and over again. Not just humans. Mayflies. Turtles and Tortoises. Bacteria and Douglas Fir. Lions and Tigers and Elephants. Dogs.

Is it cosmic irony that we spend 60 years, often more, learning, loving, gathering in? Only to spend another 20 or 30 letting go of it all? I’m not sure. Would the experience of our humanity change if life were shorter? Say 60 years? 40? 20? Or, longer. 120. 150. 200. Maybe. Or, maybe we would adjust to shorter or longer periods of gathering, then losing.

What I’m trying to suss out here is how much the particular range of life we have affects our perception of it.

In the end, as Lord Maynard Keynes said, we’re all dead. 100%.

I find this way of thinking, considering the ephemeral nature of my life, exhilarating. Dogma and politics dissolve in the acid of our limits.

         My friend Charlie Haislet. (Back left: Me, Tom, Charlie)

For 25 years or so we were antagonists. Him, the right wing devotee. Me, the radical. Heated clashes. Dislike. Tension. Now. Prostate cancer affects us both. When I heard of his diagnosis, my animus softened. My anima began to listen. Fuck politics, I wrote to him, let’s lean on love.

Both of us have advanced prostate cancer, meaning no longer curable. He is a brother in suffering. Why should I care that he liked Rumsfeld and Cheney? I don’t. Now that his cancer has taken a sharp negative turn, I feel even more love for him. That I couldn’t before puts on vivid display the wreckage our convictions visit upon us.

Or, maybe all that struggle was a first and second phase matter. Once we enter the third phase, and for sure in the fourth, the evanescence of all that clarifies. What matters is the heart, the soul, love.

Always true, yes. You’re right. Obscured though, for many of us, me for sure, in the process of rebelling and fixing and decrying. I know that now. Not too late. In time. In plenty of time.




This entry was posted in Aging, Dogs, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Health, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Mussar, Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Woolly Mammoths. Bookmark the permalink.

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