My Aussie mate Chris Lianos knows that every year I select a focus word to be my guiding theme and was curious why I hadn’t blogged about it as usual. I had selected a word – but maybe because of the nature of the word – didn’t make a post about it. Sipping green tea while reflecting on a peaceful Sunday morning caused a shift in thinking and this post is the result.
My word for 2022 is illumination. I was hesitant to write about it, because illumination can’t be explained or defined, it can only be experienced spiritually. Sure Dictionary.com has a definition, and there are legions of gurus, mystics, and teachers offering answers to questions on the topic. But questions about illumination can’t really be answered…
I chose the word illumination to inspire my year, not as the noun, but as the verb. Verbs express action and in this case the action is investigation, mutation, and transformation. Illumination is not a destination you arrive at, but a state of being you catch glimpses of, provided you possess enough intellectual curiosity, are humble enough to know your role in the universe, and are spiritually discerning enough to recognize it when it flashes in front of you.
This is the point where language is not sufficient to convey the significance of what we discuss. Because you don’t actually “recognize” illumination, that’s just the closest word that humans have developed so far to describe what happens. The reason you can’t actually recognize illumination when it appears, is because it’s not a thing you can see, but a merging – a space and place where there is no separateness – you and illumination are one and the same.
For those who seek it, illumination is not a question but a quest. (A lifelong one at that.) And once you feel the warm, spiritual embrace of the illumination experience, you understand the foolishness of attempting to define it. Not that I would have understood any of this when I was younger…
There aren’t nearly as many benefits for aging as there are for possessing youth. But the few there are, are so lopsidedly greater it’s astounding. It’s impossible to get anyone under 50 to believe that, because the fabric of our social structure is so geared to idolizing vapid, superficial, and meaningless elements of life. Just this morning I got a promotional email from Atlantic Broadband, my cable company. The entire message was:
Change is in the air…
January 10, 2022 is just around the corner.
Stay tuned for what’s coming!
Imagine the mindset it requires to think a message like that from a cable company would intrigue anyone with an IQ that is room temperature or above. And then imagine being one of the people who do find such a message compelling. Think of the earth-shattering possibilities: Maybe a cooking show entirely focused on cupcakes! Perhaps a real estate show dedicated to only remodeling and flipping tiny houses! Or picture this, a drama built around bidding on unclaimed storage units, or the turf wars between towing companies in Miami Beach! Actually, we already have all of those, so it will have to be something really important, like a Game of Thrones/The Big Bang Theory crossover event.
I believe I wasn’t really born until I turned 55 and started to understand the things that truly matter. The experience of the last seven plus years of my life is akin to what Neo must have felt when he swallowed the red pill. Ironically, the things I accomplished during the years before 55 got me a lot of accolades and recognition. Becoming a New York Times bestselling author, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, getting inducted into a couple Hall of Fames, magazine profiles and covers, receiving dozens of trophies for million-dollar earnings, top income earner, number one in this or that, and winning two softball World Series, and two silver medals and a gold at the Gay Games. Yet you won’t find a wall in my home covered with certificates and plaques, or a trophy case packed with hardware. I released all that junk when I took my sabbatical. When I got on that plane to begin that journey, I didn’t know the destination, but did know that what I was seeking couldn’t be found in external awards, designations, or recognition from others. If you were to apply a traditional business yardstick like performance indicators (KPIs) to life, that shit doesn’t even make the top 50. The KPIs that matter are your memories and who you had to become.
While it seems true that youth is wasted on the young, you can also make the argument that the true benefits of aging – the ability for greater empathy, deeper wisdom, and expressing love – are neglected by the vast mass of people who have earned the right to experience them. They foolishly pursue more entertainment instead of seeking illumination.
The curse of humanity is our inability to conceive of the infinite. No matter how big we expand the window we view our existence through, our minds are only capable of perceiving the finite. Even when we attempt to conceive of “infinite,” we really only create larger degrees of finiteness. To seek illumination requires an almost superhuman power to shatter our limiting beliefs about the finite and open ourselves up to the possibilities of the unbounded, limitless potential of humanity.
We’re all at different seasons of our lives. Illumination works for me in 2022, but it may not be the right choice for you. Whatever the appropriate focus word for you is, I hope you reach it with mindful consideration...and both the arrogance of youth and the wisdom of the aging.
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