“Every day, I get closer to the brink of everything. We’re all headed that way, of course, even when we’re young, though most of us are too busy with Important Matters to ponder our mortality. But when a serious illness or accident strikes, or someone dear to us dies – or we go to a class reunion and wonder who all those old people are – it becomes harder to ignore the drop-off that lies just over the edge of our lives.
Age brings diminishments, but more than a few come with benefits. I’ve lost the capacity for multitasking, but I’ve discovered the joy of doing one thing at a time. My thinking has slowed a bit, but experience has made it deeper and richer. I’m done with big and complex projects, but more aware of the loveliness of simple things: a talk with a friend, a walk in the woods, sunsets and sunrises, a night of good sleep.”
There are some people who think and act old while still chronologically young, and others of us who manage to remain vital physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually despite advancing years; aging can sometimes be a matter of choice. He was on the brink of his eightieth birthday when the book On the Brink of Everything was published, but author and educator Parker Palmer has managed to remain young-at-heart despite his age.
We all experience diminishment as we age – I won’t go into the gory details – but as Palmer notes, there are some benefits (glory details) that can come with slowing down. Whether slowed by our body, our mind, or by choice, an unhurried pace can be the portal to a richer life. There is so much, both within and without, that we fail to notice when we’re careening from one thing to the next, one person to another, one task to the one that awaits our attention. The subtle sense of our soul at peace, “the joy of doing one thing at a time,” and the “loveliness of simple things” are examples of the rewards of a more deliberate life.
Though some choose otherwise, it is generally true that when young, healthy, and engaged in “Important Matters,” we tend to shy away from pondering our mortality. But it is a wonderful gift we give ourselves if we pause long enough to reflect on the fact that whether “brink” refers to the end of our life or to our becoming more fully alive, every moment of every day finds us on the brink of everything, on the edge of mystery, on the verge of possibility, on the cusp of what might just be the infinite experience of the disappearance of life’s limits, a free-fall into the endless bliss of being.