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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

421 A letter of some importance from Brother Toby

Day 421 Tuesday May 11th, 2021:

A letter of some importance from Brother Toby

"To develop a willingness to be outdated and examine the wisdom we have gained while walking the path of life..."

My dear extended Starcross family,

As we all prepare to come out of the pandemic, we are making plans for a future we don't completely understand. In my case, that has to do with the realization that I am fully in the aging stage of my life. I'm not dying, but I am certainly not running around the world anymore doing unusual things. This time of aging is not clearly defined, as many of you will understand.

(Brother Toby at 90)

Ram Dass (1931 - 2019) wrote that we live in an age which prizes information over wisdom. We are continually trying to learn about more and more things. He suggests that as we approach aging, which he prefers to call “Elder Circles,” we develop a willingness to be outdated and examine the wisdom we have gained while walking the path of life. I don't know how difficult this may be. In my case, it does mean recognizing that at a little past 90, I seem to have less time for listening to the birds sing and watching my cat find a spot of sunlight to rest in. And without time for these important activities, I find I have less wisdom to share with all of you.

“But unless things are seen with fresh eyes, nothing’s worth writing down.”

― Matsuo Bashō

For many years, I have been sending out a weekly Friday Reflection, which is an important part of my connection with a broader circle of friends. But for some time, my doctor, colleagues, and family have urged me to step back from this weekly activity. This was very hard for me to consider as I value the privilege of making contact with all of you and hopefully being of help in maneuvering our spiritual paths through life. However, I have to recognize that writing now takes me longer and longer and so we've reached a compromise.

I will write a Friday Reflection every other week. On the week in between, Barbara Johannes, a member of our Advisory Chapter and a long-time friend, has agreed to choose a reflection that I wrote in the past. In cooperation with the people here at Starcross, that Reflection will be sent out to you. It will contain a note that it is a duplication of something that appeared at an earlier time. I think Barbara will primarily be selecting things that are contemplative, spiritual, and (hopefully) timeless in their dimension. Barbara will start with the reflection this Friday.

This is a major change in my life. Except for mobility, I am in good health. But as my doctor says, she wants to keep me that way! This will also allow me to have time to work on a collection of my writings that have been edited by a number of young helpers here over the years, most recently by Chloe Clasper-Torch. This book will have the title “Violet Seekers,” which is borrowed from a poem by Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) concerning a pilgrim on a serious and strenuous journey who looked down from a high mountain path and found something special — “A simple violet.”

The poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) put this venture in simpler terms. He spoke not of hoops but of striving to climb the mountain. And when he was successful and got to the summit he wrote this poem.

On the mountain path

what is this special thing?

A simple violet.

This is all going to work out well. And who knows? With more time to listen to the birds sing and watch my cat find a spot in the sun, I just might come in touch with a bit more wisdom to share.

In peace and all good things —

Brother Toby

Matsuo Munefusa, alias Bashō (1644-94), was a Japanese poet and writer during the early Edo period. He took his pen name Bashō from his bashō-an, a hut made of plantain leaves, to where he would withdraw from society for solitude. Born of a wealthy family, Bashō was a Samurai until the age of 20, at which time he devoted himself to his poetry. Bashō was a main figure in the development of haiku, and is considered to have written the most perfect examples of the form. His poetry explores the beauties of nature and are influenced by Zen Buddhism, which lends itself to the meditative solitude sensed in his haiku.

“To talk casually

About an iris flower

Is one of the pleasures

Of the wandering journey.”

― Matsuo Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other

If you're not familiar with Brother Toby you might like to read this article from SFGATE written in 2001.

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