Old men ought to be explorers
Here and There does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For another union, a deeper communion. – T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”
It’s not hard to figure out that my birthday is tomorrow when I’m writing about “old men.” I love T.S. Eliot’s words, and they came to mind twice recently. The first was when I attended the reunion of my college football team. For a couple of days I was with teammates, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. In an instant we were acting like we still ate, lived, bled, and laughed together. A bond formed long ago, time had no effect on it, at all.
The second was yesterday, where at a small restaurant in New Orleans called Katy’s sat a table of approximately twelve men clearly good friends. I told Suzy I felt like I was watching a meeting of the New Orleans mob in a Martin Scorcese movie. Drinking beer and wine, eating gumbo, red beans, and po’ boys, the “old men” were clearly telling tales.
So why did Elliot’s “Old men ought to be explorers” come to mind? Suzy would not call me an explorer. She gets frustrated when I won’t take detours on our road trips to visit historical markers or when, for instance, on our trip down this week I declined to visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum in a small town in Georgia saying,” we need to keep on driving to New Orleans.” I think one of Elliot’s messages to me is to recognize the beauty and wonder of relationships with friends. We are never too old to explore those old friendships and to seek new ones – to take old friendships “into another intensity” and for new ones “a deeper communion.”
Exploration of new places, a willingness “to go where no man (or woman) has gone before,” is part of God’s call to us at twenty or at seventy. A lesson learned from missing Laurel and Hardy is not to get so focused on the final destination that you miss the sights along the way. Exploration of relationships with our fellow humans and especially with God requires a journey of ever increasing “Union, intensity, and communion.”
Whatever our age, we all need to be explorers.
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