Getting into Mischief


 A woman in her mid-eighties encouraged me recently to help another elderly gal to “get into some mischief!”

 I wondered: 'Do I look like someone whose expertise is in encouraging old people to engage in reckless behaviour? Whatever was I to do? I had to think fast

 The other old folks seated around the coffee-shop table all laughed hysterically at the idea that the time had come for the old woman to take a 'trip on the wild-side,' guided by me.

 “It’s time,” exclaimed another wide-eyed geriatric “that she got into a little trouble!”   

 How was I to encourage the old woman to be ‘mischievous?’ Was I to encourage her to lift up her blouse or to drop her drawers? 

 Perhaps I could have helped her up to dance on the table in front of everyone? I fear where my imagination might take me - it’s already gone too far - so I’m going to stop now!

 Would any of these actions have caused squeals of delight from the old folk who appear restlessly as a way of life to be bent on finding action and entertainment, even as they hobble around with their canes? What would have ‘done the trick’ for them so that they could continue deliriously to laugh their way towards their impending deaths? 

 I suppose it could have been any kind of display, as long as it had shock value.   

 Is the quest to ‘get into some mischief’ the outstanding quest that still endures even as your death draws nigh? Is this 'all you are about' in your later years - someone who is still looking for action and distraction, indicating therefore that you are someone who has never found 'true being, awareness and bliss?' (satchitananda)

 These elderly folk who live on the edge of their departure from the planet talk about ‘getting into mischief’ a lot. This language of finding all kinds of ways to get into trouble is a recurring theme in their lives.

 I’ve been overhearing them talk this way for more than six years at the coffee shop where I study and write. (when my noise canceling headphones aren’t on)   

 They appear to think that this is a 'fun' way to talk and tease each other.  Their exchanges with each other in this way never let up. I think it’s rather sad, tiresome and pathetic. 

 It’s a little disconcerting to hear folk in their 80’s and 90’s talk like this.  Really, does it have to be this way? Are they not capable of grace and dignity? 

 Frankly, they do not sound any different from high school days when I used to hear talk about “getting wasted last weekend.”  Foolishly, the talk then after any given weekend was about rules flaunted and broken.  It was an ongoing competition every weekend, as it seemed, as to who could get away with what.

 Don’t people get tired of hours of frivolity and of attempts to “get wasted?”  Apparently not.  Still looking for action and distraction at eighty-five! 

 Were my aged friends missing those years long ago when they were more physically able to ‘cause a stir’ at a party somewhere?  It seems so.  

 Now it happens that the elderly lady I was supposed to help ‘get into trouble,’ is someone with whom I’ve developed a serious relationship.  I’ve heard all her tales of woe and her longings. Our conversations have always been elevating. I love her and care for her. I have always treated her with dignity and respect.

 Her 'friends' treat her like an idiot, whose life is such a bore that she needs to look for some taboo she can violate in order to feel alive.

 As I think of the old folks looking for mischief I’m picturing a very old man walking ever so slowly to the corner of the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center sanctuary in Honolulu. I had just spoken to him and was impressed with his class, dignity and exceeding calm. 

 He had radiated God in our conversation. His presence was so vivid that my heart warmed and opened up with him. I loved him on the spot. 

 I watched as the old man struggled to sit on his meditation cushion but then settled in, his face glowing with goodness and beauty. I thought: 'If I live that long, I hope to be like that.' 

 I am absolutely sure that the long time mediation practitioner has not the slightest interest in “getting into mischief” so that he can feel alive. He’s found another way of being and has cultivated that for a very long time while, as it appears, others have been looking to get into mischief and trouble. 

 He has chosen one way to be. Many others choose another way. It’s the difference between choosing to live for 'the real or the unreal.' For pleasure or for joy. For fleeting things or for eternal values.  

 “We have to be discerning at every moment of our lives,” said the coffee shop owner to me on the same day when I was asked to help my elderly friend to get into some trouble somewhere. He’s been reading the Swiss philosopher, Frithjof Schuon, who emphasizes how crucial it is to choose between 'the real and the unreal' at every moment of our lives. Our sense of freedom and dignity is related to how well we choose. 

 My three sons are home presently - a rare event. The highlight thus far was when one of them agreed to watch philosopher, Roger Scruton’s film, Why Beauty Matters? It's a film about the difference between bad art and good art. One comes away wondering: 'Does my life point to beauty or to ugliness? 

 What if my children’s interest was only to be looking to have ‘good times?’   I would be utterly ashamed. What if I'd raised children whose interest only is to be busy, distracted and mischievous and not beings who make concerted efforts to cultivate spiritual awareness? 

 Every day I read in the Orthodox Prayer book: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, and sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”  (Psalm ch. 1)  I’ll translate: How blessed, how magnificent, is that person who refuses to waste his life away by seeking to get into ‘mischief and trouble,’ or, put in another way - how blessed is that being who refuses to lose his soul in so-called ‘good times’ by spending his valuable time in the company of the uninspired - the ungodly, the sinners and the scornful.

 The blessed human being makes it her practice instead to steer clear of the pleasure seeking crowds and to keep good company.

 The lifestyle of the vast majority of people is to make little or no room for any kind of spiritual emphasis in their lives. “Do not look for rest in any pleasure,” warned Thomas Merton “because you were not created for pleasure. You were created for spiritual joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy you have not yet begun to live.”

 Those who are spiritually alive, the Psalmist says, "delight in the law of the Lord" and "in His law meditate day and night." They do not forget, but live with an awareness of God as a way of life. They live in an entirely different way, on a different plane, in another dimension, from the ungodly, the sinners and the scoffers.

 Such beings could care less that there is a party going on somewhere.  These blessed beings have their restlessness under control and would not participate in any activity that might clip their spiritual awareness.

 I believe that the language we use reveals our character.  If you ever hear me say that I'm looking for mischief you'll know that I'm in a downward spiral.  Kick me, please.