At first I didn’t realize that I had set up directly across the Balboa Park promenade from a Spanish-style guitarist. When I sat down in the chairs I had diligently placed in what I thought was the perfect spot, even moving them around a couple of times to attain the best fengshui, I noticed that me and him were face to face, separated by about 30 feet of promenade.
What I didn’t realize is that I had picked too PERFECT of a spot. My initial inclination upon realizing the unintentional precision of the chair placement, was to move but then I sat with the discomfort and remembered that I had set my chairs up there for a reason and maybe I was meant to get a FRONT front row seat of the show. The guitarist smiled as his played, giving a hint to his inner demeanor.
Robert, the psychologist who has never practiced psychology.
Over the sound of the staccato chords billowing in the November air, Robert and I were in an intense eye gazing session, locking eye contact for close to a minute without saying a word. Robert would mimic gestures I made and make funny faces of his own, which allowed me to see many faces within his one face. When humans eye-gaze for long periods of time, it makes sense that we begin to see just that, long periods of time. In our life, we go long periods of time looking relatively the same, with age slow-sculpting us over long intervals. What’s cool about eye gazing is that you see the person in every part of their life, as a little child and as an elder. It’s hard to describe, it’s better when experienced which is why I try to involved it in Free Listening whenever it feels right. We would go long periods of time before one of us broke the silence. I remained seated and Robert stood 6 feet in front of me, bobbing around, with his back to the music. He’s one of those guys in their 60s who seems to have the energy of a kid. At some point he delivered this gem of an insight:
“I totally agree. I think of it as the authenticity of the way life decided to create me. There’s a way that it already has been done that is just covered up by being born on this planet. I guess you could call a trance state of beliefs and programmings that we get born into. And it covers up our own authenticity. It’s so traumatic to be born on this planet that we abandon our own sense of being that we try to find our own sense of identity and fulfillment outside of ourselves when it’s already all there. So the whole process is about coming back you yourself.”
Wendy whose never been to Disneyland is also a: “bottom-of-the-glacier-person.”
Wendy came over accompanied by Ed. When they first started dating, Ed used to travel long distances to see her. He used to split time between two cities, working during the week and then coming to see Wendy on the weekends. Even though it’s probably a story that’s played out thousands of time between different couples all over the world (finding love, realizing you don’t leave near one another, doing what it takes to close to distance until you can move in together) it’s still a simple and endearing kind of a love story, no matter how many times I hear a version of it. I didn’t ask him, but I’m curious to know as I write this, did he anticipate he’d still be with her all these years later? Was it love at first sight? They’re in their early 50s now.
They described to me a phenomenon that they believed to to widespread among people in their early fifties. “We know so many people who it’s happening to.” At this age, they told me health begins to decline as the the body begins to fail itself. Even cognitive abilities go downhill, as evidenced by what Wendy self-described as a lack of ability to form complete sentences, which she said was prominent, though I didn’t notice anything of the sort. “You seem to be well spoken to me, I said.” I did this as much as possible, trying to catch her in her self-diagnoses and harsh projections of herself, when they didn’t match up with the reality of how I experienced her.
As they were telling me this, I couldn’t help but think of many examples of people who are thriving in their fifties, either that are public figures or who I know personally. I was struck by the contrast, how the people in front of me believed that it's all downhill from 50 and the other person I was thinking of had the opposite belief, that they could be healthier into their fifties.
“Do we age because we stop moving or do we stop moving because we age?” It’s a question I heard once and it’s a good one to ask in this situation. I think of of the vegan dad, triathlete, and former In-and-Out eating coach Potato, Rich Roll who had his aha moment when he realized he was out of shape walking up a of stairs when he was just shy of 50. Now in his fifties, Rich is a decorated athlete, having accomplished Ironmans, and is one of the fittest guys in any age category.
Wendy used to be a Yoga teacher but said can no longer teach due to her declining health. But what came first, the stopping of doing yoga or the declining health? She lit up when talking about how she used to teach kids yoga. I mentioned that it’s not too late to get back into it, yoga can be taught in any number of ways, including from a chair. She used a walker to get around and sat it in for most of the listening session.
Wendy went to college in Indiana and I’m from Connecticut. She mentioned how the particular geography of the region was carved out by glaciers. Where she went to school was at the bottom of the the last glacier that covered North America. Did you know that was only 11,000 years ago? I mentioned how the landscape of my home state was glacially crafted, and also happened to be also be at the southern terminus of the last glacier. Making us both "bottom-of-the-glacier-people."
Did you know the current era we live in is called the Holocene?
It’s not just a fleet foxes album…
I sometimes stop to think how profound it is to remember that we are currently living in a long stretch of geologic time, which we will probably be a footnote in. Whichever species dominates the earth millions of years from now will probably study us by fossil record. They’ll create science fiction movies about bringing the ambitious bipedal of the past back to life by harvesting DNA from specimens preserved in amber.
During the last ice-age, and again, that only ended 11,000 years ago, it's likely the human population dwindled to numbers in the thousands. Now there are billions of us, and I get to live in a time when there are too many people for me to meet in one lifetime. How awesome is that. I will never run out of people to meet. I will never run out of people to listen to. Until the next glacier covers mine and Wendy's home states, I hope people continue to get to know one another, stare into each other's eyes, participate in honest discourse, and work together to create a better living environment for all.