- Sunrise at the Desert Retreat House -
Yesterday I received an advertisement from a local travel agency telling me that it’s not too early to start thinking about plans for a summer vacation. The ad listed several favorite trips people are already booking, so I better act now if I want to get in on the deals. The advertisement also told me: this is a good time to plan some vacations that may still be on your “bucket list.”
We live in an area where many older and retired folks live and that ad I received in the mail was clearly designed for that population. It seems as if “bucket lists” are quite popular - lists of those places you want to visit or things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.”
I guess it’s ok to have a “bucket list,” and it’s not a bad idea to do some advance planning for a “dream trip” you hope to take some day. The problem is that you can spend (and waste) an awful lot of time and energy thinking about those good times yet to come - a time that may not ever happen.
I think today’s “bucket list phenomenon” is quite emblematic of the kind of spiritual dead-end so many people run into when they live for the days to come, and in doing so often miss the days that are here.
I am reminded of a little “saying” that comes out of the literature of the ancient Christian Desert Monks - a piece of wisdom a mentor shares with one of his young charges who is constantly making “big plans” for what to do with his life:
The old Abba told a younger monk,
‘You’ve not yet found a ship to sail in,
nor put your luggage aboard, nor put out to sea,
and yet you are already acting as if you were in the city you mean to reach.’
I think the old Abba’s words of wisdom might easily be shared with a lot of people in our own times – so many of us live in a future that hasn’t even happened.
Interestingly enough, as I get older I have less and less desire to think about the things I yet want to accomplish before I “kick the bucket.” In fact, every day I find myself being pulled more and more into the present. More and more I find myself cherishing and relishing every moment of the life that is given to me.
I am reminded of something the renowned monk and author, Thomas Merton, once wrote in his journal in the later years of his life
The one thing that has grown most noticeably in my spiritual life
is the grip the ‘present’ has on me.
As I am getting older I am more and more aware of
the reality of now- the unreality of all the rest.
It seems to me that Brother Merton’s words offer deep spiritual wisdom not just for people who are growing older but for anyone, at any age, on any spiritual path: the reality of now – the unreality of all the rest.
It was a glorious, crisp and clear, early-spring morning out here in the desert. As I sat outside almost blinded by the bright light of the morning sun, bathed in the brilliant colors of the desert flowers in my garden now coming into bloom, I decided to throw away that ad about checking off those places on my “bucket list.” What more could I ever want than what I have here and now?
I just came across one of favorite poem–prayers:
Flipping, flapping, flapping
Not yet ready to fly
Anchored by too much
The past is a chain holding me down
The future is a vision not yet clear
There is only today
Today I will soar