Ingredients for the good life
Longevity has its values for those who remember their past and enjoy trying to understand what it all means. As children, we are taught that it is good to “know thyself”. Well, that is fine, but it may take many decades to begin to sort things out. At age 91, I am still trying to connect the dots to learn more about myself and my very long and successful journey. Why was it successful? How much was good fortune, or lack of misfortune? Here are my thoughts on the matter.
My formative years were good and stable even though the family marriage was the typical failure. My father was seldom home and took no real part in my upbringing. I was a good and obedient kid who seldom needed scolding nor discipline. I was could come and go and roam in total freedom. Mother could trust me to stay out of trouble. It is therefore not surprising that I developed quite an independent nature. Also, I had no fears. I never had thoughts about any lurking dangers. Clearly I was very naïve, but happy and free of troubling fears throughout my childhood. I was raised without any specific guidance or expectations yet went to college and graduated with a BS degree in chemistry. My fortuitous timing is discussed later.
I was born a “Truth Seeker”. I was constantly evaluating what I was taught to validate it against my own observations. I wanted to know the how and why of the universe. I gradually discarded any religious beliefs, jealousies, guilty thoughts, or fear of death. Shame, revenge, and envy were also discarded. They served no useful purpose for me. By age 40, it became apparent that almost everything I had learned by age 20 was not true. It had all been unlearned by age 40. That includes some that I was taught in the University.
Father’s job took us from City to Country, so I was at home in both environments. I was especially comfortable in the country amongst the flora and fauna, rivers and lakes. Our family loved animals and always had a cat and a dog for pets. I understood the natural world better than the people world. I would start to take interest in the latter as I approached age 40. Until then I was shy, quiet and reserved with little self-confidence other than in nature, science and technology. I had steady employment as a research chemist, and I began to slowly acquire other skills as opportunities developed. I was becoming curious and energized to explore the human world more deeply. My personal growth grew only slowly during my first 3 decades.
One of my best decisions was to end my marriage of 18 years and venture forth into the unknown. I am proud of the courage displayed in the hopes of finding a better future. My first marriage clearly had no future.
I grew and developed rapidly with self-confidence and people skills through the ages of 40s and the 50s. I foolishly thought I was ready for a second marriage at age 60, but soon I learned otherwise. That marriage was a mistake and was never going to work. It was a short marriage, and afterwards I took vows of celibacy at age 62. I had finally reached a level of maturity and no longer wanted a woman in my life. I was now ready for total independence and freedom. There have been no regrets for that decision. I have never had any regrets for past actions. I have had a very good and exciting life, well-paced over 9 decades. At age 70, I remember saying that “Life gets better with age”. For me that has been true for two more decades. How fortunate is that!
What makes life enjoyable? The short answer is to have good health and a clear mind. Life’s joys and pleasures derive from the clear mind which in my case has been slowly improving since a rather ordinary childhood. I suffered no mind -expanding challenges. This steady and constant growth leads to a fascinating life of adventure and never-ending new discoveries. How and why does this happen, and why so very many are left behind to endure a dull existence? I can only guess at the mysterious secrets which lead one to a better and more fulfilling life. But, I shall try.
I was born a truth-teller, naive and innocent, with the subconscious belief that my life’s mission was important, and that I must be mindful to avoid bad habits which could shorten my life and nullify my true destiny and potential legacy. It wasn’t about me; I wanted to serve and repay in some yet unknown manner. To what end goal? There was no goal. It was the journey that brought great joy and some accomplishments.
I was born in Oakland CA in early 1928, fortunate timing for two big reasons. I became a city boy rather than a country kid. Who knows how that could have changed my future. Had I been born in 1927, I may have been one who was landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, 1944. More importantly, I was only 17 ½ when graduating from high school, WW II was still raging so I was subject to being drafted into the US Army. I thus enlisted into the US Army ERC (Enlisted Reserve Corps) in June of 1945, two months before the sudden surrender of Japan. I thus got some free college prior to induction into the US Army after turning age 18. I spent only 14 months in the army, had a nice vacation in the Philippines, got Federal financial aid for college, and graduated from college with a BS in Chemistry in 1951. Jobs were plentiful and I enjoyed a 35-year career at Stauffer Chemical Co. in Richmond, CA. My birth year (and month) was ideal to launch me into the working world. One year either way from 1928 could have made my life much more challenging, and I may have failed to compete due to my meek and mild nature.
Let us view a long life from another angle. In our youth, we tend to gather a large array of skills and interests. We learn how to discard bad habits and to foster good habits, along with constructive thinking. These skills accumulate each year as our life grows and we mature to bring both challenge and enjoyment to each new life phase during the lifelong journey. We become mentally stronger and competent as we learn how to avoid problems and errors. We gain better judgment and wisdom which results in feelings of serenity and competence. Life is good and getting even better. .. That describes a life worth living. ..
How do memories figure into a good life? We all enjoy our memories of good times and want to treasure them forever. Good memories equate to a good life. The more, the better. Bad experiences are best forgotten as they tend to fade away. (unless traumatic war experiences have caused PTSD scars). Fond memories seem to become more important as the years pass by. For the weak and immobile older folks, fond memories can become a blessing and salvation. The unfortunate may lack material wealth, but they still have their favorite memories. One only needs a few good ones.
I was still very shy and awkward interacting with people in my mid-thirty’s, so I worked to improve my people skills. Sensitivity training was a real eye-opener for me, and a 5-month group experience changed my life forever. I also found that asking questions was a powerful way of communicating. It draws you closer to the other person and leads to more personal topics of discussion. After 35 years as an analytical chemist, I was starting to learn and enjoy reaching out and making new friends. My later years are greatly enriched by the people in my life. I am especially delighted and surprised by all the close friends who are 60 years younger than myself. Who would have ever guessed that! Not me!
What advice do I now offer? .. When reaching maturity, live your life boldly. Reach out to others, ask questions, stand up and share personal thoughts and opinions, always tell the truth with respect and empathy for everyone. Become a real person of character and integrity. .. If that fails, bring forth and relive your fondest memories. ..
….. HAVE A GOOD CHUCKLE …..
What is the meaning of life. .. What is the meaning of Your life. .. To each his own answer. .. Choose what feels right for you! ..
“I CHOOSE TO LEAVE A SMALL CARBON FOOTPRINT”
Of A 500-Year-Old Man
Think about it. Most of us living today will have the experience equivalent to ten times of those living a hundred fifty years before. The average longevity was about 48 years in the horse and buggy days. How much knowledge could one accumulate then compared to now? Today with the internet and smart phone alone, even a child can gain more life experience than a grownup could before. With instant communicating we cram tons of activities into a single day, switching topics rapidly, and multitasking constantly. Compare that with the mental stimulation of a kid stuck then on a farm or city dwelling. Even 500 years of the old-time experience could not compare to 50 years in the modern world. With all that extra experience we should also be smarter and wiser today. Let us all celebrate the modern life, but take care that it does not use us up too soon!
UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN MIND
For the good life, it is useful to know that you can train your mind with a little practice over time. Monitor your thoughts to learn new skills and habits. There is power in positive thinking. How do you think that prayers are answered? The brain is like plastic and can be altered by your thoughts, as a computer can be programmed for certain tasks. Experiment with your own style of thinking and recalling, to better understand how to progress to higher brain efficiencies.
Your SUBCONSCIOUS MIND holds your complete story. It stores all of your life experiences and only lets a small portion into your consciousness. Talk silently to your subconscious and you can become in charge of your destiny. Do you ever have a “Gut Feeling”? Well, that is from your subconscious. Stay in touch; the subconscious can usually be a trusted guide.
THE ROLE OF CURIOSITY
Curiosity is one of our common characteristics and great assets. It is the great engine that drives us toward an array of endeavors, thoughts, and activities. Curiosity keeps us alive. Without curiosity we are diminished in part. Curiosity stimulates the mind and moves us constantly forward, always seeking, always finding. Curiosity leads us to better health and longevity.
Yet, there are those trapped in their old habits and traditions. They resist anything new or different Where most moderns constantly seek out new tastes, sights, sensations, ad infinitum. Are we moderns easily bored or are we just passing through another phase as our culture continues to change?
Happiness, fulfillment, and contentment are fine goals for most folks. Sadly, all too often, people look in the wrong places. Materialism seldom brings satisfaction. The more you own, the less freedom you have. The stuff starts owning you. What then is the answer?
Humans basic needs are food, shelter, security, and meaningful activity. People are stimulated by adventure and creative pursuits. This is what the early Californians had 150 years ago. Later, the auto, electricity, and radio greatly improved the lives of many. But now, the rate of change is beyond our ability to cope. Our modern world is stressed and corrupted with little or no stability except for the rich (and some homeowners). It is challenging to remain happy when your security has eroded. But, there is some hope for the new generation, starting with their first job. Save 20% of your pay and live frugally and within your means, develop a nest egg that will grow with time and provide the required security. That is the formula for middle class happiness in our times. Happiness is possible when feeling secure. Also, our planet will benefit with universal frugality. No small thing, indeed.
Be frugal, get security, and help save us from global warming.