I work as a manager at a clinic of chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture. We have a patient who I see come in almost every week. He is a small, hunched over old man who wears the traditional brown robes of a Monk.
Brother Paul, as he is called, is now 90 years old and still walks everywhere. He is slow and unsteady, a walker assisting his travels, stopping often for rests as he goes. I pass him often as he lives in my neighbourhood. Before I started work at the clinic I would see him and wonder about him… who he is and what kind of life he’s had. I have the chance now to speak with him but I don’t really; not beyond the pleasantries of greetings or as I hold the door open for him to leave. The practitioner who treats him tells me how bright and quick witted he still is and how the stories he tells intrigue him…wondering how different his life has been from ours. A life chosen of devotion and faith.
I’m not someone who has faith in god or the divine. My beliefs tend towards Buddhist principals but even then I falter when the subject of faith comes into it. I have an analytical mind, discerning of reason and logic. Faith of anything without proof that is calculable is beyond me. I look at someone like Brother Paul who has lived his entire life devoted to a divinity that he has no assurances exists is inspiring as well as dumb-founding to me. Part of me wishes that I could have just some of that inside of me. That I could trust in something intangible … be it a deity or something as “earthly” as love and a soul’s connection to another.
You see, my absence of ability to embrace devotion also translates to intimate relationships. The trust and faith to believe the feelings that I feel at times elude me and I struggle to temper the rational and calculating side of my mind with the emotional and passionate edge that I know does reside within. I long to throw myself with abandon into feeling and experience what it is to just love and enjoy and not question. I’m not foolish enough to think that relationships are like that in perpetuity … but a taste of it would be nice. Yet my mind holds me back… are some people just wired differently? I don’t know… maybe it’s conditioning. I try to think back to my younger years and relationships and see if there was a difference. I was more impulsive and impetuous. I made decisions based on emotions and desires and many times those decisions brought me to hurt and ruin. So I became more distant and guarded. I started to hold back and fence every emotional response and impulse. I would, and do, resist urges and desires and be my own strictest chaperone – halting actions before I had a chance to act – erring on the side of caution to the point of not experiencing anything. A self-imposed celibacy and break from all intimacy of an emotional or physical sense has ensued. I now find myself wondering how to come back from that.
All of this swirls through my thoughts as I go back to my office after holding the door open for Brother Paul to exit. We lock eyes as he passes me… he thanks me and the sparkle in his eyes in unbridled and beautiful.