I am dating myself but I remember the Al Stewart song “Time Passages” and remember how it felt way back when. I had the rest of my life in front of me so the words “time passages” felt like something that lay ahead, everything was in front of me. I could imagine university years, my first job, dating, adult friends, a career, social activities, sports, and maybe a family. I confess I was not sure then when or if there would be a settling down period in my life, my focus then was more on what I would do, where I might live and the goals I would set for myself.
Perhaps it is because my orientation to life has always had an existential quality that for someone who is always identified as relational and social my goals are more about goal setting than large social networks. I wanted to build up capital of good will, kind deeds, experiences and events where lots of people would gather and have fun but also make some difference, personal or collective. Politics then seemed like the most obvious vehicle for this enterprise. I would win some nomination, have a ball going door to door, be part of a larger team, use my social skills to bring people around the table who otherwise would be on the outside, save money and resources on those like me who already have plenty and spend the rest on those who needed it. I would change laws, make new ones, save on people like me, spend on people not like me, and create a community where everyone was valued. Along the way I would meet some interesting and inspirational people. Sweet!
That was the plan. Some of that did come to pass, except of course the vehicle for this work turned out not to be politics but religion instead. In some ways, looking back, this makes total sense. Church world is more dependable. One does not get thrown out of office just because the winds of change suddenly rise up. One has more control in a church setting, you are there as long as you want to be, and the interests of others are less opportunistic, no one ever offered to be a Board Chair or Treasurer to get rich! And frankly the motivation feels more connected to who I am, Jesus is a more satisfying source of wisdom than any contemporary political figure.
I enjoy wrestling with sacred texts, speaking about timeless truths, what it means to be human, not working every day to some four-year election deadline. In church world one can stand and share hard truths, uncomfortable wisdom, prophetic challenges but in politics most of those involved are always trying to tell people what they want to hear.
So now when I hear Stewart’s song I think less of what might come and instead think of what has been and what might remain. Now I get to evaluate where my plans worked, where my plans were foolish, where internal flaws needed to be addressed. And knowing how fragile life is, my funerals now are for people whose age is not far removed from my own, I know what time is left is not as long as I used to imagine.
It seems to me this period of life need not be sad or remorseful. Rather with time can come wisdom, we learn more about ourselves and our goals and we separate what is our need from what others seem to want. We become who we really are.
Well I'm not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on, are the things that don't last
Well it's just now and then, my line gets case into these