Lepers by Another Name

“He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

While in this passage (Leviticus 13: 46) refers to sufferers of Hanson’s Disease, it seems to suggest that “living alone, outside the camp” — in solitude — is one of the worst fate a human can suffer.

As we age it is not uncommon to end up living away from family, disconnected from the other members of the community in which we live and with too much time on our hands. I believe that’s another form of solitude. This form of solitude is potentially destructive, debilitating and depressing.

In this scenario, unless we’re mindful of what’s going on, we certainly could see ourselves as the outcasts living outside the camp. Lack of awareness could turn us into victims of time and a society that’s fast-paced and geared to younger people with more disposable income.

Just as we deal with aging and the everyday life and physical declines it sends our way there must be a way to make lemonade out of the “living-alone-outside-of-the-camp” lemons.

First we need to acknowledge what’s happening and the potential symptoms. What are we going to do with this situation to turn it into an opportunity for out benefit?

I’d probably start by printing a tee shirt with the slogan, “Cast out and proud of it.”

I might think about how to use this time to be more mindful of my surroundings and how to create more opportunities for art, music, and literature in my life. And, of course, how to get as much out of my next sesshin and aikido practice.

But then that’s about me.  What about you?  Do you ever feel like an outcast? What’s that like for you? Are you proud and ready to challenge anyone who doesn’t like it? Or, are you just counting the days until the last one?

Leprosy Warning sign

Leprosy Warning sign (Photo credit: amanderson2)

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One Response to “Lepers by Another Name”

  1. Our Western view is in conflict with Eastern attitudes towards the aged. Here, we seem to think of “old people” as out to pasture, “living outside the camp”, awaiting their final demise.

    In many Eastern cultures, (and according to lore, Native people of North America) the aged are revered.
    They have had the greatest amount of living experience and are considered wise ones, sages and elders.
    Perhaps there is also a respect and reverence for the generation before, which has raised us and built a world for us to inherit.

    There is a distinct difference between solitude and isolation.

    I do not ever feel like an outcast, I do not ever feel alone. My place is within the universe which surrounds me wherever I may be. Its vastness makes me feel at the same time a tiny, meaningless speck and an important part of something bigger than we can grasp.

    I am fortunate to be surrounded by circles of my people. As my life stretches onward, the circles continue to grow. Yet these are but mortal beings, beautiful and imperfect. There is a yin and yan in this relationship, joy and burden, duty and laughter.

    It is only when I am alone, under the great starfield, that I truly feel the solace of belonging, of peace that predates me and will linger when I am gone. An acceptance without price or judgement, without appeal or invitation, without a second thought.

    I am the cosmos.

    Be at peace,

    Paz

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