Published in The Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 16, 2018. I grew up in Berkeley, Calif., in a family haunted by depression and alcoholism. My father (Princeton ’54) was an English professor, and 12 years ago, after fighting depression for decades, Dad took his own life. The threads of his mental-health conditions are woven into my genetic tapestry as well.
For thousands of years, meditation has opened the door to spiritual transcendence; a path to the joy of egoless existence in the moment. In more recent times, this honored process has been overshadowed by the material rewards of our Western culture, and by the competition that fighting for them fosters.
John’s [anonymous] time on Earth was much shorter than everyone thought it would be. It is tragic that he was not meant to spend his whole life with us. While John was here, he blessed us with his grace, love and mastery of his beautiful crafts.
I often look back, admittedly through a rose-colored lens, at how easy-going our childhoods seemed to have been. In many respects, life is different now. We can argue about whether this sea change is for the best, but it’s beyond dispute that our lives are pushing the outside of the stress envelope. How did life get so stressful, and why are well-intentioned parents and our smart device-dominated world frequently making things worse?
There is no relevant metric, but I figure that dogs enjoy taking walks about ninety percent more than do the people who walk them. No dog-owner I know runs around and screams for joy when a walk comes up on the agenda. When straws are drawn to see who has to get off the couch so Charlie (the Bernese) won’t soil it, the loser is generally as resentful as Charlie is ecstatic.
Now I've been happy lately, thinking about the Cat Stevens
good things to come, and I believe it could Peace Train
be, something good has begun.
For out on the edge of darkness
There runs the peace train.
Peace train take this country,
Come take me home again.