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Arkell's Ark: That Damned Dog

ďWith age comes introspection, which can be a dangerous thing,íí writes Ian Arkell as he muses upon the profoundest of all questions.

Many people argue that their status in life is a result of seemingly chance encounters or events that overtook them. Others claim that we make the choices that find us where we are today.

I turned 66 recently. Thatís nothing special as many people have done the same, with any number venturing far beyond. My motherís side of the family tended to live into their early nineties. So as I follow her in terms of physique and temperament and try to live moderately, I am hopeful of emulating their longevity.

I recall turning 17 and finally being old enough for a driving licence. At the time I calculated that I would be 55 in the year 2000. Yet 55 was too old to contemplate and 2000 was so far away. But itís been and gone these past ten years.

With age comes introspection, which can be a dangerous thing. And increasingly itís been pursuing me this last year, relentlessly nipping at my heels like a good kelpie trying to herd me somewhere I donít want to go; forcing me to examine some of my attitudes and beliefs in an attempt to understand whether my life is in fact some sort of plan, or just a mish mash of unrelated circumstances and events.

ĎPlaní is perhaps the wrong word, as it implies a Ďplannerí and as one individual among billions, the logic of there being an entity to plan and control all these lives, is hard to accept. For me, the myth of a Ďdivine planí remains just that. It may provide consolation for some but I suspect itís simply a religious device to keep one warm at night and provide some sort of solace.

Yet many lives appear so structured, organised and without discord that, when compared with oneís own, there certainly seems to be an invisible hand exercising some sort of benign control. Although perhaps itís a mistake to view other lives as an uninterrupted and logical progression without discord or tragedy; an endless story of success upon success. For despite the platitudes regarding empathy, would any of us would really want to walk in anotherís shoes. Who knows what may be lurking there?

I look in the mirror and see someone who is in no way related to the excited seventeen year old itching to get behind the wheel. Yet it was yesterday, Iím sure of that. In that mirror I also see a guy who is relatively fit with no apparent health problems and only mildly resentful of joints that complain when the sixty six year old does seventeen year old things.

I see a man who is less than one hundred percent emotionally fit and so far as spiritual health is concerned, Iíd be heaps better if the damn kelpie would leave me alone. Comfort zones are, well, comfortable.

For years Iíve enjoyed my zone of disbelief; firstly in my agnosticism and then, after reading a number of authors including Richard Dawkins, positively and perhaps smugly self assured in my atheism. And yetÖ

My search for understanding started over fifty years ago. Thatís a long time to be adrift and without direction. A lifetime in fact. I realise now that my past flirtations with organised religion have been tentative stabs at understanding if in fact there is something more to a life than the acquisition of material success or ego satisfaction. I think there is.

I have a feeling there is a dimension I have yet to comprehend or grasp, yet it remains like a vague shape in the mist. But there are little cracks of light appearing, sneaking under the door like a pre-dawn promise of a sunny day.

Iím reading Thomas Merton again. I have an on/off relationship with Father Louis, captivated at times by the beauty of his prose, yet confused at others by his arguments. And even though I may nod cautious agreement with what he says, something still prevents me from relinquishing a position. Perhaps itís simply pride with ego trying to assert its dominance once more.

The analytical, rational side of my brain processes the words and lays them out in the correct sequence but the message remains elusive. Itís still more comfortable to file it under myth and fabrication.

Yet I know that in the absence of some sort of epiphany or Damascan road experience, the kelpie, relentless as ever, will continue nipping at my heels.

Maybe the damned dog knows something I donít.


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