Chapter 27: Growing Up, or Just Growing Old?
And I told her a story about Emerson.
A man asked Emerson, “How old are you?”
Emerson said, “Nearabout three hundred and sixty years.”
The man could not believe.and he had always believed in Emerson that he is a man of truth! What had happened - a slip of the tongue? Or had he become senile? Or is he joking?
To make things clear he said, “I did not hear what you said. Just tell me how much.?”
Emerson said, “You have heard it - three hundred and sixty years.”
The man said, “I cannot believe it. You don’t look more than sixty years.”
Emerson said, “You are right in a way: on the vertical I am three hundred and sixty, and on the horizontal I am sixty.”
Perhaps he was the first Western man to use this Eastern expression of horizontal and vertical.
Emerson was immensely interested in the East, and he had a few glimpses which bring him closer to the seers of the Upanishads. He said, “Actually I have lived sixty years; you are right. But in sixty years I have lived as much as you will not be able to live even in three hundred and sixty years. I have lived six times more.”
The vertical line does not count years, it counts your experiences. And on the vertical line is the whole treasure of existence - not only immortality, not only a feeling of divineness, but the first experience of love without hate, the first experience of compassion, the first experience of meditation - the first experience of the tremendous explosion of enlightenment.
It is not a coincidence that in the West, the word enlightenment does not have the same meaning as in the East. They say that after the black ages, dark ages, came the age of enlightenment. They refer to people like Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jaspers as very enlightened geniuses. They don’t understand that they are misusing a word, dragging it into the mud. Neither is Bertrand Russell enlightened nor Jean-Paul Sartre nor Jaspers.
Enlightenment does not happen on the horizontal. Even in his old age Jean-Paul Sartre was still running after young girls. Bertrand Russell changed his wife so many times, and he lived long on the horizontal - almost a century. But even in his old age, his interests were as stupid as young people.
The East understands that the word enlightenment has nothing to do with genius, has nothing to do with intelligence, it has something to do with discovering your real, authentic being. It is discovering God within you.