I just got off a crackly broken phone conversation with my friend, Bill Scheffer. It seems that more often than not that’s how they are these days. He was taking his lunch break from his work in planned giving for Planned Parenthood. He was somewhere amidst the cacophony of midtown, walking between work and Chipotle’s searching for a salad.
I was sitting in the sun on our back porch in Sebastopol looking out toward the oaks and overgrown garden beds.
I thought to myself that Bill should move to California and do development and planned giving work for Spirit Rock, a Marin mediation center that may be mid-stream in a large capital campaign. But I shied away from suggesting it to Bill, thinking to myself that “that’s not the life he was born into.”
And it’s not. At least I’m not sure it is. For Bill, family and friends are very important. And for several generations his family has been deeply steeped in Manhattan. He has lived there, and he’s grown up there. His rich network of friends and his spiritual life are centered in New York. Most of the lines tethering him to this world are anchored there. Moreover, like many of us, his parents are near old yet and it’s more important than ever to remain close at hand. That larger body needs him. It doesn’t matter how nice the job is: I might as well suggest that Bill move to Mars.
What then of the rest of us? I once dreamt of entering the foreign service. Or something like that. I studied Russian. But it was never going to happen. I wasn’t well enough equipped coming out of the starting gate. I didn’t have the temperament or the know how. No matter how much I wanted to escape, I had my own wrecked family tying me to California. I had my own past tying me to my own brand of dysfunction.
My classmate Fareed Zakaria was born to be Fareed Zakaria. I can safely say that I was not.
Which begs the question as to what life I was born into. And to that, I unfortunately don’t have much of an answer. An array of weird experiences and encounters that if not culminating in, have at least deposited me here on this sunny morning in California, not knowing even which way is up. Which is a strange state of being for 47.
It begs a larger question: For all of us, that disparate and manifold and brilliant sparks of sentience that we are, what is this larger life that we all more or less were simultaneously born into? What hope that we ever truly will divine the texture?