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30 July 2008

DAY 34 :: Fly

Gabriel_2 You have had the audacity to take on human form and you are delighted. But the human form has ten thousand changes that never come to an end. Your joys, then, must be uncountable. - Chuang Tsu

"If I am to change again, then let me embrace change. That is my life – to change. Every seven years, all the cells of my body have changed, and every day, I feel a little different when I open my eyes.

I have changed my name, I have changed my sex, I have changed my occupation and my role in this life so many times, I can't count them anymore. If I had 37 days, I would change as many things as I could, so I could be in practice for the second greatest change, when it comes. (The greatest was to be born from nothing.)

I would sell all I have, change my clothes, my hair, and leave for parts unknown. I would wander where I could, and follow the light of joy and the shadows of sorrow wherever I saw them headed. I would call myself a different name every day, and touch the lives of as many people as I could. I would leave them with my laughter, or a song, or a story of my life I just made up. I would tell them to look for me the next time I was in town, we had such a lovely day. Then I would go.

Nothing remains, in the end, nor will we. That we do not remain the same should not surprise us, really. For a year, I carried a copy of
Leaves of Grass in my coat pocket, out into the Pennsylvania woods. I read then, from the pen of Whitman, what I someday hope to understand.

I have often thought that a moment before we die, we finally realize that this has all been an elaborate play, in which we thought we were the lead. But Walt knew: "Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it." May we know this at last, laughing with Whitman at the joke

Most of us talk about change, but we don't really know what it is to change. Not really. Not in significant ways. Not in ways that challenge our identity in the minds and hearts of those around us.

Most of us talk about letting go, but I daresay we don't really know what that is, either.

Lori Buckwalter is simply one of the smartest, most insightful, amazing humans I’ve ever been privileged to meet. Thanks to her for this contribution to our learning about change and about leaving - and my own thanks to Lori for contributing so much to my understanding of what self really is. A copy of LIFE IS A VERB will be on its way to her soon.

[When asked, Lori suggested I use this photo from here. It could not be more perfect an illustration.]

(If you’d like to submit your answer to the question, “What would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?” email it to me. I’ll post as many as I can in this countdown to the official publication date on September 2nd for my new book, LIFE IS A VERB.)


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Now THAT is simply impressive!

(I love Leaves of Grass, too.)

I'm always impressed with people who embrace change so fully.

Reminds me of Alice (in Wonderland)

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"

I love serendipity, multiplying signals.

I got this poem from a friend yesterday

The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Beautiful essay.

When asked about how much and how easily I can change, my response has always been, "it's the only constant".

When people tell me they are impressed by how easily I change or accept change or roll with whatever, I re-mind them that they only need to become more aware of their own change. The next thing you know, you'll start directing parts you can direct and accepting parts that ask to be accepted.

great essay... i had to return to read it again. i love the subject of change. one of my mid-life epiphanies has been that life is nothing but a series adjustments to change. it is never-ending and i agree with the above comment stating that 'it is the only constant'. thanks again for posting all of these beautiful reflections on life.

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