By Jim Paredes
Philippine Star Humming in my Universe
At age 50 or 60, you look back at your life and a lot of realizations hit you. For example, you will look at friends, family, and other people you have gotten to know well, or even as mere acquaintances, in a different way than you did when you were much younger.
In your 20s, you may look at someone as a close best friend because you spent a whole summer together. Or you may think you have found true love because the other person could understand and accept all your quirks and imperfections within the few months you have been together.
But at age 20, you still have your entire life ahead of you. So much more will happen to you, and during that length of time between 20 and 60, you will experience more stuff that will change you. You will be tried and tested. You will go through heartbreak. You will feel pain so deep, it will change your personality. You will undergo great joys and disappointments. You will probably have a change in civil status, physical condition, geographical location, job, political affiliation, socio-economic status. You may change religion, life partner, or even sexual orientation.
No one’s life is static. Anything can happen, and you can be sure it will. That’s life.
Looking at people I’ve known from way back, I see entire life narratives played out, and still being played out. Some have had it easy. Some have had it tough. In some, I sense great spiritual growth, while others seem stuck in some of life’s tight bends and have not moved on. Not yet.
Days turn quickly into decades. Time will teach us that there are so many ways to be happy, and also so many ways to be miserable. We all change to some degree. As we age, some opinions and beliefs we used to hold dear will eventually be dropped for new ones. Carl Jung put it well: “But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
He also said something which I often remind myself of. “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” When I look at people I have known for years, many seem, in some great measure, to have been successful in letting go of much of their ego, while others are still struggling with it and holding on. One can never completely kill the ego, but you can set it aside enough of it to be able to laugh at yourself, admit mistakes and be forgiving of yourself and others. Time and aging can help you to do that. Those who can tame the ego are happier. The others perhaps need more time.
On social media, I get an idea of how friends and acquaintances live their lives. There are so many permutations of how life can be lived. If life were meant to be lived only a certain way, then all this diversity would be wrong and against nature. But as we can see, the life force in us brings us to where we are. “Life will find a way,” as posited in the movie Jurassic Park, and each path is individually and personally carved out.
While life seems to have no rules since it goes on as it does, we must make rules to get to know ourselves and everything around us. It’s the only way we can earn the right to sing “My Way”.
It is also true that many of us often find ourselves in situations not of our own doing. That’s because many times, we did not choose things consciously. We do not know how we got to where we are. The unconscious took charge of our life and brought us there.
Growing up means that we must make our own decisions in our own lives. The task is to make conscious what is unconscious so we are able to knowingly make clear choices in charting our own path. To be conscious is to know and accept ourselves and our true motives, no matter how “good” or “bad” they are. I am talking about total honesty and acceptance of oneself. It is hard, but that’s what it means to be responsible for our own decisions.
On Facebook, we read about people dying – of lives like Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, and other more humble lives of simple people coming to an end. Words like “mission” and “destiny” come to mind. What did their lives mean to them? To others? Did they live with a purpose that was clear to them? Then, I turn to myself and ask: What is my mission? What is my life all about? Have I fulfilled my mission yet? What else do I have to do before my life ends?
In life, we accumulate wealth, and we build relationships and reputations. We also make friends and enemies. It is clear to me that worldly goods and relationships are not real possessions. You can’t take them with you. The temporal world has no place in eternity. We are all going somewhere infinite.
Maybe what matters in living our finite lives is to somehow outlive it and be remembered even for a few generations. We will die, but some part of us must live on. We must live a life that defies our own death, and leave behind something that people can enjoy, emulate, be grateful for or be inspired by.
That legacy speaks about how well we lived and loved, and what we leave behind that somehow makes life kinder and better for other people. ###