HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 30, 2012 12:00 AM
I got an e-mail from a classmate recently telling me he just underwent a quadruple bypass. He felt extremely lucky saying he was “saved” by a higher power and the reason, he felt, is because he still has other things to accomplish in life. He is still too young to say goodbye. Thank God he got proper warning via a stroke that was caught in time, and he received a new lease, another chance at life.
I consider a person who lives past 77 years to have lived a long life. I base that number on personal family history. On the average, my uncles and aunts on both my parents’ sides lived around that long. When someone lives a long life, there is a certain sense of completion about his or her time on earth. The word “lifetime” to describe his or her existence on earth becomes quite apt.
With longevity, it is safe to assume that one has survived many battles, illnesses, disappointments, great sadness, numerous trials, to live another day, and another. But then, one must have also experienced joy, happiness, laughter, friendship, love, mirth, ecstasy, and many other pleasurable states.
The saddest person is one who has lived too long but who feels that he has simply wasted his life away. It is said that this is a probable reason why certain people get to be cantankerous as they age. It is their way of lashing out at life because they did not live it on their own terms. They had dreams all right, but they were too scared, too timid and shy, or too disempowered to have done anything about them, least of all pursue them. They have lived a long life, but not in a majestic way. They have simply… wasted away.
It is such a blessing to be able to spend a great deal of time doing what one loves to do. When I watch the Oscars, the Emmys and other similar shows that recognize excellence, and I see aging men and women who are praised and honored for their outstanding work, I see and feel their sense of achievement. One not-so-secret explanation for this is, these men and women loved what they did, and that’s why they did it well. They put a lot of time, effort and passion in their work and the excellence they produced is the result of their love and dedication.
I see this same love and dedication in lives played out by ordinary people who live lives of lesser magnitude, with hardly any public recognition, but of quiet impact. Teachers, doctors, housemaids, nurses, caregivers, priests, nuns, employees, etc., spend a great deal of their lives in service to others, and they love what they do. They invest a great deal of their waking hours caring for, nurturing, and making it possible for other people to live their lives not only in greater comfort and safety, but with illumination and meaning. One might say, the people they serve wouldn’t have had such a high level of achievement and functionality if they didn’t have such men and women of generosity and bigness of heart in their lives.
There are many theories on longevity. Some men attribute their longevity to their wives. The English novelist Charles Read wrote, “A wife is essential to great longevity; she is the receptacle of half a man’s cares, and two-thirds of his ill humor.” I am not sure I agree with this as a rule, but it raises the question, what should we attribute a woman’s long life to? To men who dump their worries, cares and ill humor on them? Just asking.
I have met people who have lived long fruitful lives, some with partners and some without. When I ask them how they have managed to live so long, they talk about their specific formulas for health which often make sense only to them, since some of what they say is contrary to what health experts believe promotes longevity, such as smoking or daily intake of alcohol. Some say exercise, or lack of it. Some say their secret is eating certain foods and avoiding or indulging in certain vices.
But after talking with them for a while, you will see that their attitude has a lot to do with it. These are people who know how to be happy, and who have lived a big part of their lives with real purpose. They wake up every day raring to do something they like to do, finding meaningful activities to spend their time on.
Victor Frankl, in his awesome book Man’s Search For Meaning, wrote about his horrendous experience in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Death was a daily occurrence in the camps due to lack of food, poor nutrition, sickness, depression, or murder. But while there were many reasons why people died, he observed that there were tangible reasons why some people lived despite the odds. And these had nothing to do with age, sex, health status, educational level, or whatever other demographic. It had everything to do with the fact that these men and women, though thrown into the worst circumstances life could conjure, felt they still had things to do in their lives. Some wanted to see their children and families. A few wanted to write books, continue their education, or attend to some unfinished business. All of them were looking forward to something after the horror was over.
Lucky are the people who find their passions early in life; they can spend a lot of time indulging in joyful, meaningful activities. And the more they do it, the more excited and happy they become. They are inspirations to others who are trapped in dreary, meaningless lives.
Although a lot of people live longer by looking forward to a better future and making that their inspiration, there are those who attribute their longevity to avoiding stress and not worrying about things they cannot control. They pretty much live in the here and now.
This is what the American writer-director Garson Kanin meant when he wrote, “A man 90 years old was asked to what he attributed his longevity. ‘I reckon,’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘it’s because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have sat up and worried.’”
Here’s to longevity! A long life to all!
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1) I would like to invite everyone to my solo concert, “Live Laugh Sing,” on Oct. 11 at the Newport Theater, Resorts World, at 8 p.m. I promise you surprise and delight. I will be singing a wide variety of material. My guests are Yeng Constantino, Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel and Jett Pangan. Call 0917-8859338/ 0918-8859335 for ticket reservations, with delivery. Or call or go to Ticketnet. See you all there.
2) Here’s something exciting! A Photo Workshop at Bee Farm in Bohol on Oct. 20. Interested? Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.