The little hedge-row birds,
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought. He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten; one to whom
Long patience hath such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing of which
He hath no need. He is by Nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy what the old man scarcely feels.
Just reading about this man brings a sort of quiet all over me. It might be the lulling rhythm of Wordsworth’s blank verse. But it’s also the insensibly subdued portrait of a life lived worthily and well.
I get so spun up about so many things that do not matter. They loom large in my sight. But when I take a deep breath and shift my focus—what we focus on expands—then I can move with thought, instead of with the pain of hurry and urgency and efficiency. Then I can imagine settled quiet and begin to inhabit it, incarnate it.
I’m a long way from “peace so perfect”, but at least I’m learning to be envious in the right direction.
Rembrandt, Portrait of an Old Man in Red, 1654