Like many men, I gravitate towards the heroic “Master of the Universe” visions. Triumph, audacity, and grandeur all loom large when I visualize my life. I don’t see my history as one big enchilada. There’s no sum of the parts, only parts. Like the Andes Mountain Range, the whole is too big to see. As a result, I abstract a few glacier topped peeks to conceptualize the whole. I prefer to dwell upon these heroic high points. The minutia- the hours spent mowing the lawn, dumping the smelly kitty litter box, or changing diapers, those are moments devoid of grandeur.
My wife doesn’t see life in those terms. She’s oblivious to the concept Masters of the Universe. She neither sees it nor encourages it. “You’re looking to find Grandeur Man? See life through the eyes of your young grandson. His eyes light up with grandeur in most everything he sees these days.”
She’s right as always. The grandkids are great. But my first thought is that my masculine persona requires more stateliness and nobility than found in a 4 year old. Us grandfathers, we have our standards. Right? Now in retirement, searching for grandeur opportunities is hard work. It is like trying to find tulips in a snow storm. I collect my social security check, I read AARP magazine and each day grandeur seems to be slipping through my fingers. It’s devastating. Bad enough that I lose my fresh good looks and vitality of youth. My heroic road seems to go straight down to mediocrity, then down to less significance and on the way to “Invisible Weenie”. Very depressing for Grandeur Man.
I was looking for alternatives to the big, the heroic, the stately. At this age, what’s out there in the nobility department? Snaking out the toilet drains or watching TV reruns is an anathema to grandeur.
Then I stumbled on a Japanese tea ceremony story:
When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?
From The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The thought “greatness in small things” rings a bell with me. I don’t drink tea, so how would I “…set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
I ponder my many experiences for such moments. A couple of thoughts come quickly: Sitting in a hot bath after an hour chopping wood in a snow storm; a happy hour at sunset with my wife; a surprise call from an old friend- these are small things that could be jewels of infinity moments. Then comes the largest small moment: I remember chasing my grandson across a dew covered lawn. We were both barefoot and our footprints nearly stripped the whole lawn of its dew. Through his eyes, I could see the moment held all the grandeur that a three year old mind could comprehend. With dew oozing out between our toes, we both set that moment into a jewel of infinity.
These moments, like the tea ritual, change nothing. Yet they are gems and add up to a rich life. They are the flashing rubies you see from an airplane flying over the country side at night. These navigation or radio tower lights don’t support you but they are saying something. They communicate, guide or orient your voyage if you pay attention.