I was relaxing with my second late afternoon Margarita, soaking in our hot tub. My wife was away visiting an old friend in California. I was listening to old jazz on Pandora: Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and others. Such memories of those days of jazz in underground smokey bars, drinking whiskey sours and smoking my Camel straights, driving home wasted at 2:00 in the morning after last call. Then getting up at 6:00 for my work as an apprentice carpenter. Then the Navy, college, a masters degree, teaching.
Were times better then? Maybe simpler, but not what I would say were better. I remember driving to work during the Cuban Missile Crisis wondering what the nuclear attack would be like, what it would look like. Would I see mushroom clouds? Would I survive? I elected it would be better to be part of a mushroom cloud.
Women’s rights weren’t. Neither were any civil rights. We lived in a world struggling to still know who we were after the horrors of WW II and Korea. I realize now how the veterans of those wars drowned their memories in alcohol and drugs, trying to pretend they were okay when they staggered home after work, after drinking in some dive bar, home to an indentured housekeeper wife and children who feared his anger, his hand, his sorrow.
No. The world wasn’t really settled, is never settled, we aren’t ever settled. Life is the time, the times, we live. Why does it seem always a struggle? Wanting more? A newer car? A bigger house? More wealth? Living in fear of ‘the other’ as we are told to do on the evening talking head news during commercials selling crap no one really needs. I sometimes envy the Buddhist ascetic who gave away everything and has nothing, but has everything.
Other days, some nights, I long for those youthful days, those jazz bars where I spent my time and money all those many years ago, satiating my own fears of what my own life might bring. I already know what it has brought to date: my family, a beautiful home in the mountains of Colorado, a quiet retirement from the university, my meditation practice, my writing . . . all of which is more than I could have ever imagined.
Maybe the older I get, the more cynical I become, but in my own present slightly alcohol satiated mind, the world seems more screwed than ever. We face more crises now than ever. Sure, we have women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights that still do nothing but incite ridicule and derisiveness in many who find solace in ignorance, false religions, anger, guns, and hate.
Tayatha om bekandze bekandze maha bekandze radza samudgate soha.