Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians
A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.
Sage, or Grumpy Old Man?
Sometimes a grumpy old man can come up with a sage observation, and even a sage can have a day that makes him pretty grumpy. But, generally, a man tends to be one or the other. He is born with clear tendencies either way, and all the experiences of his life thereafter simply serve to reinforce his natal qualities.
I spent a good part of my youth wishing that I were a wise old man of 60 or more. I believed that people of that age no longer had any anxieties, having gained complete mastery over their minds. It was an accepted assumption in our society, reinforced by early TV and movies, that older men could be trusted with young women (and, for that matter, young boys), because men over 50 no longer had any sexual desires. By the age of 60, I thought, all my youthful fires would be quenched. In their place would reign rationality, wisdom and imperturbable tranquility. A long and eventful life would give me the perspective of a saint. Young people would flock to me for advice, inspiration and emotional comforting. I would be a valued elder statesman of my society.
Well, now I’m writing this at the age of 67. And I really do have moments of enlightened tranquility, when it seems that all the universe’s secrets are open to my meditations! Those moments are so clear, in fact, that they almost frighten me. But they're relatively few; I do not float about in a cloud of perpetual bliss. When I’m hungry and tired, and my back hurts, I feel irritable and put-upon. Everything seems to be harassing me personally. I just want to take a nap.
I must admit that it’s better to have some moments of wisdom and peace than none at all; I would hate to revert to those angst-filled years when I lived in constant fear and turmoil. So, gratefully, I have made some progress toward my goal. But moments of weakness and impatience still keep happening.
Life doesn’t seem to have taken that long; in fact, I’m surprised I got here so fast. I'm not scheduled to receive any humanitarian awards. And young people only listen in spurts, mostly just tolerating me—exactly the way I tolerated older teachers when I was young.
Perhaps most surprising, is the revelation that “dirty old men” aren't any dirtier than young ones. The sex drive did not disappear with the acne; we're still the same adolescent guys we always were, only with more experience and more onerous responsibilities. Some precocious young people seem to understand this, but most of them are too naïve and trusting. Wake up, kids! A man's sense of moral duty may keep him from acting on his secret thoughts—but that doesn't mean he isn't thinking them. To quote Hamlet, "We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us."
Having been forced to admit the two extremes of my nature, whenever I’m prompted to give advice, complain about something or share my opinions (whether anybody asked me or not), I try to stop and honestly answer the following question:
“Ted—what is your motivation here? Are you being a sage or a curmudgeon?”
This is very important to determine. Because when I’m a sage, people should be listening and taking notes. They really should! At those times, my ego is out of the way and the universe is communicating directly through me.
But when I’m just being a grumpy old man, you might as well listen to Jeff Dunham's ventriloquist dummy, Walter. At least you know not to take him seriously.
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