Standing tall on the horizon is Eiffel Tower
As the years tick by and calendars on our living room wall slowly fade and get replaced, more and more I find myself being aware of my mortality. Nothing external has changed. The rainbow has the same hue of seven colors it always had. Seasons still progress in the sequence they always did. What has changed now is my perspective of looking at the same things I have looked at innumerable times before is occasionally different than it used to be.
In the afternoons when I take the walk along the wooded trail near my home, there were always dead trees, some standing and some fallen, that littered the landscape. Before they were just “dead trees.” Now at times, the same landscape brings the awareness that everything is impermanent.
And me, one among all.
This change in perspective has been a jarring experience, particularly at a juncture in life when other things are also in transition. I am at the end of my long career and staring right at me is something that is termed as “The Retirement.”
An end of a journey? A new beginning? What to expect in “The Retirement”, I don’t quite know. Associated with that transition is also an acute sense of loss of identity and not knowing what I will be morphing into.
I am getting off from the train I have been on for a long time. As I step on the platform, I do know what the town has to offer. When I leave the noise of the platform behind and step out in the bright sunshine under the autumn blue sky, if someone happened to snap a picture, the look on my face will be of bafflement of a person who gets to an unknown place in the middle of the night and does not know whether to turn left or to turn right.
The one-two punches of life in transition, and the awareness of mortality, has been a potent combination that landed me on my back. Like a stranger in a new town looking to his left, or her right, I am standing at a bifurcation in the road I have been traveling on. One path goes left, and one goes right. I know they lead to two contrasting different destinations. I cannot stay indecisive forever. I need to keep moving or wither.
I need to make a choice — turn left or turn right.
I am at the moment when Neo is staring down at the Red and the Blue pill. Like him, I am at a bifurcation point. Ahead of me, the road I am on becomes two, and teases me with a choice. One road is the path of a life lived consciously; the other is the path of being on an autopilot.
One road is living at peace with my awareness of mortality. The other road is losing myself in random acts in an attempt to swim against the awareness of mortality. Try as I may, I will not swim far.
Taking the blue pill means seeking constant distractions. It is a random walk and the sum of all steps taken over a day, a week, a month, or a year, brings me to the same place I am at. I know this path will be a drowning sense of emptiness.
Taking the red pill means that the sum of all steps I take will put me in a place that is different from where I am now. And the direction of that change will be guided by what I value in life.
After a long struggle and introspection, I am taking the red pill. I am turning right, and although I still do not know what waits ahead, and whether I am currently up to the task of navigating the road, I know I have the wherewithal to do so and will find my way around.
That has always been a charm of travel and visiting new places. I know I will be safe in there and then. What I do not know is what novel views, what fragrances, or what aromas will greet me down this road. The journey, however, will be an adventure, a learning experience.
Most journeys to new places are like that. Take a right turn, and suddenly, standing tall on the horizon is Eiffel Tower.