I don’t want to boast, but I feel that I know less today than at any other point in my life. There are drawbacks, of course: I sit tongue-tied when my wife and I watch Jeopardy each evening after the news, as questions of fact race past like guided missiles with other targets than me in their direction finders.
It feels freeing to be unmoored in space—not knowing exactly where I am going or on what mission I have been sent here. I feel like a king’s messenger, dispatched to deliver papers to a foreign land, but my saddlebags fell overboard during a stormy crossing. Now my horse and I gallop over hill and dale, with no preordained destination.
Some good-hearted souls whisper among themselves that I have lost my way; or that no one can live a useful life unless they are pursuing some model of excellence; or even expressing concern that I am showing signs of early dementia. Well, perhaps in my case, not that early.
Knowing less and less about more and more, I have to reinvent myself every morning. And there is another issue: I don’t always remember what stage of life I am living in. However, being uncertain of what I know, including what stage of life I am in, could be a good preparation for what comes next. When my time arrives to enter my next stage–if there is one—perhaps involving the discovery that I have no arms and legs, no air pumping through lungs, no blood pulsing in a beating heart—it might be good to have some practice not knowing what’s going on.
This morning I woke up remembering a dream. I was eating at a restaurant and someone said that Jon was outside. I went out and he was standing there, just as I remember him. He was on his way somewhere and I asked him where he was going. He said that he was driving to Mexico with another man. I must have remembered at that point that Jon is dead, because I asked him if the other man was also dead. Jon responded: “He’s dying.”
Later this morning, drinking my second cup of coffee, I had the thought that when people talk about being visited by an angel, they are probably not thinking of someone they grew up with. A godsend is more likely to be someone who just shows up when they are needed.
To be willing to drive to Mexico with a stranger who is dying feels like a generous thing to do. If that is the last trip another person makes in this life, it feels like a confident gesture to help make that happen. With such confidence, a person could feel that they themselves belong.
Looking back on this dream, I realize that I have never had a sense that I wanted some kind of contact with Jon. If he did contact me, what would I do with that? I don’t want to be forewarned that I need to be working to prepare for what lies ahead. I’d rather practice being relaxed with whatever comes my way.
Instead, let Jon drive to Mexico with some stranger who is probably feeling anxious, maybe haunted by their own fear of the future. For my part, I will continue to let those Jeopardy questions keep sailing over my head like doves on some secret mission, content to just feel the wind of their wingbeats on my brow.