Recently I’ve been stalled out on a book project that’s occupied me off and on for five years. Entitled A Country for Old Men, it’s an autobiographical field report: a series of conversations with old men I admire and want others to learn from. The project is stalled. There is no wind in its sails, no gas in the tank. To see what I could learn from earlier versions of my self, I began reading old diaries, letters, journal entries, commentaries. It was interesting to see how much hasn’t changed.
One diary entry tells the story of my going to gathering in Philadelphia to take part in a Jewish renewal event lead by Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi. I had just published a book—The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America. Zalman and others were interested in what I had to say. But instead of feeling proud of the accomplishment and of the great reviews my book was getting, I felt depressed and out of sorts. While I was there, I spent some time with a lovely woman named Anna Bodnar, who looked at me after a while and said:
“Something just came to me, and I’m not sure whether to share it with you or not.”
“Of course, I want to hear what you have to say,” I responded.
“Hold the world more lightly,” she said, "and let it come to you.”
Anna, wherever you are, thank you for those words of wisdom. I think I am just beginning to understand what you meant. Maybe I can live it too.