I remember, with great fondness, standing on the playground of St. Ambrose School in Endicott, New York – an eighth-grader in his thirteenth year of life – holding his ubiquitous red transistor radio in one hand and a well-hidden cigarette in the other – listening to an up-and-coming group from the UK sing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
At that moment I was intoxicated with the simple joy of being alive; unaware of the pain and disappointment aging and adulthood held in reserve – the birth, old age, disease and death we collectively call suffering.
Is memory a trickster? When, today, a half century later, I think back on these watershed moments with great affection, I often wonder what became of that beautiful and brilliantly-innocent child. Did he lease his soul to a dark angel in return for safe passage through puberty and adolescence or was it the drama of high school that drained him of his last reserves?
Actually, it was neither. With an insatiable curiosity for and an indefatigable commitment to personal emotional and spiritual evolution, the then 21-year-old sought sanctuary in monastic life. After an extended retreat in a Benedictine[Catholic]monastery, I signed up for Zen Buddhist training. It was here, in the years that followed, that I found a wellspring of healing – having learned to turn the stream of compassion within. Today this sixty-six-year-old baby boomer is a clarion for 77 million of his contemporaries – a still, small voice crying out in the wilderness.
And now, that voice – my voice – extends to you an invitation to celebrate life as a member of the largest age demographic in the western world. An invitation to look within, to discover our individual and collective essence – to embrace a spiritual, intellectual and emotional dynamic that offers the possibility of no less than a look at the face we had before we were born. —-Martin Bayne