All our yesterdays point to inner focus on tomorrow
Brett Favre threw his greatest pass last week. He announced his retirement and, in so doing, confessed that while his body is still willing, his mind is not. His juxtaposition of mind and body is not the usual mantra heard about aging when we bemoan that while the mind is willing, the body is not.
Ennui: a listlessness of mind or spirit; complete lack of interest or mental fatigue. I remember the word from my eleventh-grade vocabulary list. For some reason, it stuck with me, one of those unusual words—onomatopoeic in its sound—that needed not repetition to be incorporated into my vocabulary.
In one of his lectures, Joseph Campbell uses a work by the poet W.B. Yeats as a visual aid that correlates the phases of the moon with the progress of the individual through the various stages of life.
The quarter moon is equivalent to the period of adolescence or puberty, with the full moon symbolic of the fullness of the individual’s development—strong, energetic, at the top of one’s game—reached at about the 35th year.
Then the moon begins to wane, and many who insist they abide by Jimmy Buffet’s advice not to look back over their shoulders—“Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder / So I can’t look back for too long,”—do exactly that. At times, it might be mere reminiscing, but too often it’s about having regrets.
Favre’s moon is beginning to wane as he nears middle age. In his game, a stock phrase is to “leave nothing on the field.” Brett surely hasn’t. Like the feeling one has after a bout with the flu, it seems he mentally feels like a limp washrag. For some, the stress of modern-day life has its debilitating effects; for others, the hyper intensity with which they live life does them in.
What is it, though, that wears the individual down? Mentally numb in anticipation of his impending doom, Macbeth unfeelingly accepts the news of his wife’s death as a minor detail: “She should have died hereafter, There would have been a time for such a word.”
He then proceeds to put it all in a larger cosmic light, capturing the emptiness of one who has lost focus of what life should be about:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
To be sure, his intonation is melancholic despair as the forces of justice surround him. His failure lies in the poor choice, his fatal flaw, he has made when he defined his life’s purpose: ambition and power at all cost.
But that is not where Favre and so many are who feel like limp washrags but have given their lives up to now a higher meaning. Favre didn’t play football for glory, but for fun. Still, his task now involves the re-energizing of his spirit and the redefining his life. Where to from here?
Campbell suggests that as we move beyond the phase of the full moon of our lives, we begin to identify more with the consciousness rather than the body, the vehicle of our consciousness. The body is impermanent. Like an old egg-beater, trusty and reliable but in need of continual upkeep, it will never morph back into a hot and surging BMW.
Who we are, the essence and energy of our being, is permanent, for it can neither be created nor destroyed.
Paul McCartney sings, “Oh, I believe in yesterday.” But our yesterdays are gone, and the future is a hope or dream, a place to prepare for. All that we do, all that gives us concern or joy is but an event in the now that has meaning. It is important then for the individual to step back, observe, and allow him/herself to come to that self-understanding: “So this is the reason why it is happening.”
Buffet wraps it when he sings, “There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can’t go wrong.”
Favre just threw his greatest pass. But for this aerial, only he can make the reception. My bet is he makes a fingertip grab in the corner of the end zone on his final play.