How rare is it to see a person who lives in the minute, loves what he does, is successful, happy, loved by people who know him and entirely without ostentation? Such a creature is almost impossible in our world today. If asked who might that be, what sort of person, I would say a very accomplished Buddhist meditator.
Bill Cunningham, who does street fashion photography for The New York Times, and has done fashion photography most of his life, is such a person. Last summer and again today I saw the documentary film called Bill Cunningham's New York. He's up there close to the Dalai Lama in my impression of his spirit of mindfulness -- which seems to have evolved, not out of meditation or planning, perhaps partly from his Catholicism, but simply from finding a creative niche for himself that brings him constant satisfaction and doing it in a way that give him complete control of his creativity.
I listened to a room full of smart and probably typical seniors discussing the film. Many psychologized, looking for roots in his family, wondering about his regular church attendance, about his long pause when an interviewer asked, "are you religious?" As one thoughtful woman said, "put that way, it is a difficult question." Since he was always honest, he spent a long time, probably asking himself, "am I what people mean then they say 'religious'?" Certainly I'd spend time thinking about it as would the person speaking. One does not need to be religious to live a beautiful, satisfying, meaningful life. One lives. A simplicity that boggles the minds of those of us who are constantly bombarded with psychobabble.
Seeing this movie again filled me with joy just watching his joy. The psychologist in the group assessed him as being uniquely able to sublimate any psychological problems (assuming, as all psychologists do, that everyone must overcome some psychological traumas just to get to adulthood.) Do we ask if a highly regarded lama was bullied as a boy or if he had sexual urges he's had to sublimate? It is not relevant. When a person reaches his late 60s or early 70s and lives the way Cunningham does, with equanimity and, again, that joy that is all the accomplishment we need to know. It can be done. We can aspire to it because there is a living example to prove it's possible.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!