I was challenged with this question the other day: Who do you want to be for the rest of your life?
I am a soon-to-be octogenarian. At this stage of my life, there is a trail of "me"'s left behind: the teacher, the academic, the academic administrator, the novelist... There are others. Even "the writer" does not seem quite the right fit any more.
So I have been thinking about this question: who do I really want to be? And I return to the moment of my birth.
I was born on August 1st. My father gave me the name Peter because this, in the then Anglican calendar of saints--it has changed since that time--was the Feast of Saint Peter in Chains.
I have always attached great importance to my name. Along the way, I have had to struggle with those chains. I have been Peter "the Rock" (remember, Christ said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church"?) Well, no church was ever built on me; but, for better or worse, I have been known as a man of steadfast reliability. I have also been Peter "the denier" (remember, the garden of Gethsemane: "before the cock crows twice, thou shallt deny me thrice..." Do I have that right?) I long since abandoned the religion of my father; long since abandoned belief in God.
And there's one other thing that Jesus said to Peter that sticks in my mind. Remember, at the Sea of Galilee, when he was calling on disciples to follow him. He came upon this group of fishermen, Peter among them, and told them, "I will make you fishers of men."
So that's what I think I want to be: a fisher of men. I have long experience in this already, as a 20-year participant in the ManKind Project. But that's one of the "me"'s left behind. Now, what I'm looking for is more about simple connection, about being there for others, a curiosity about what it is that makes a man. I have started on this already, without knowing where it might take me. These past few days, I have been sending out invitations to men I know and admire, asking them if they would be willing to share a boyhood memory with me--a memory of particular intensity, that in some way shaped who they are today.
And responses are starting to come in... As I say, I have no idea where this will lead, but I want to follow up with personal contact. We'll see. If any men readers of these Buddha Diaries would like to participate, I'd be more than delighted. Just write down a memory of particular intensity and send it to me at email@example.com...
Oh, yes, and there's also the Peter who walked on water; but I think that one is well beyond my skills.