Hey guys. 🙂
So all y’all probably know I’m heading for college very, very soon. And it’s about 4,000 miles away from here in Madison, Wisconsin. Needless to say, I’m excited. And scared. And nervous. And worried. And…
You catch my drift. I’m a bit like Anakin Skywalker was when the evil Palpatine attempted and succeeded in converting him to the dark side: I’m lost and conflicted.
This post is for myself.
More specifically, it is for me to try and let loose all the ideas that have been fomenting in my mind these past couple months. I honestly don’t know what sort of blarney will spew out of my fingers right now…I’m typing blind, I’m typing fast, and the words are coming out of their own accord. I don’t assume to tackle the very fabric of the space-time continuum or anything like that…I’m going to leave that up to Doc Brown and the flux capacitor.
But what I -AM- going to try to do…in a sort of roundabout way…is try and explain the world, as I see it. I know that this kind of thing isn’t usually what you guys see from me. But please, I urge you: you’ve come this far, and you have nothing better to do except click ‘refresh’ every few seconds and hope there’s something new. So let’s get started! Buckle up!
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.
-Charles R. Swindoll
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning (when I’m not being an insomniac) and look at the misty dew on my window.
And quite often, there’s usually a jogger or two, or maybe the bluejays will have nested in the apple tree outside my window. They come back every year, they always do.
And putting on a ratty T-shirt and pajama pants, I unlatch the front door, and walking barefoot on the gravel, head outside to the driveway to pick up the daily paper. The front page often contains horror stories of war, murder, sex, and nuclear weapons.
I flip to the back.
There, I read short little blurbs — often just a few pages long — about a local boy saves dog, or how the 10-year-old won the local beauty pageant, or how the city council has authorized a homeless shelter. These are the stories I read, and I believe they’re what makes the world go round.
Sure, war plays a role. Evil plays a role, as it always does.
But the beauty of human creativity and compassion…the unique trait common to all man that is so easily ignored for more passionate debates…is what’s really important. I think we forget that, all too much.
We’re so mired in debates about abortion…gun control…stem cells…nuclear weapons…that we tend to forget what is really at stake here. We’re the guys that sent people into outer space. We composed the most beautiful sounds that our ears will ever hear. We formed the idea of government, of culture, beauty. So why aren’t we at peace?
Why do we continue to squabble over meaningless conflicts over an oil well, or military superiority, or water? We are blinded by arrogance. Our patriotism to our mother countries…whichever country it may be…leads us to believe that WE deserve this. WE deserve that, because, well, it’s us.
And we shout and yell and rattle our swords and eventually we have a conflict, either with or without blood — although at the end of the day, it matters little — and people are hurt.
If we turned only a fraction of the energy we spend on making war and raising our noses a little higher towards that which benefits as most of us as possible, we would be soaring to new heights right now. But instead, we’re stuck in a cycle of war and peace, a cycle that has gone on for millennia, perhaps since the dawn of time. I don’t presume to change that by myself. But maybe if enough of the world looked around…at other places…perhaps, just perhaps, we can implement the seed of doubt into their minds.
And that seed will grow — which would take millennia by itself — and soon enough, on geologic terms, the face of the world would have changed.
Sure, it may seem like an impossible task. It can’t be done. Too many people are needed to change the way of thinking. But that’s what we said when we went for the moon. That’s what we said when Columbus tried to discover America. That’s what WE, as a nation, said, when we went to war against England. And when our country broke up in two. And when we tried to have equality for all.
As Yoda would say…it is only as big as our mind makes it out to be.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
-Pope Paul VI
We all die.
Sad but true.
Sooner or later, we will enter the great, big, black void known as death. What’s beyond…nobody knows.
We’re all scared of it. And we all dread it. And we all hope that cryogenic freeze will be invented before then so we can see what the world is like in the year 3000.
I am afraid of death.
But I accept the fact that it will come. Anakin doesn’t. Idiot.
But once we have that idea drilled into our heads — lives will end, whether we like it or not — a whole new vista opens up. Our lives are now on a timer. There’s a time limit. And this isn’t Super Mario Galaxy, or Red Dead Redemption 2, or Halo: Reach. We don’t return to the Comet Observatory, and we don’t “respawn”. Death is final.
We used to be toddlers, once. Then preschoolers. Then we went into school. And finally, we’re here, wherever here is for you.
I’m about to go into college. A new stage of my life is starting, and the curtain falls on the last stage. Looking back, although my memories are clouded by nostalgia, I still remember the most memorable moments. It’s hard to explain the upwelling in my mind as I look through my diary, or the photo album of my family before there was Facebook.
There’s something about flipping through a musty photo album, with many of the pictures slightly askew.
I see the four-leaf clover I found, perfectly preserved.
I see the stub of my airline ticket. One-way: South Korea to the United States.
Memories can be awesome. They bring out the best in us, the part that hasn’t been battered by our daily lives, the part that’s deep inside us only to be brought back when we’re looking back. The part that says, “Those were the good times, eh?”
But…memories can also be painful.
They can hurt, stabbing at us with their spears of embarrassment, or sadness, or anger. But even those memories carry a tinge of nostalgia. Even the very worst memories that remain in our minds, even while bringing a furrow to our brow or a tear to our eyes, can remind us that yes, we existed back then. And I’m glad for it.
One of my friends who worked at a nursing home told me this story. He looked after a very old man who was 90-some years old.
And that man told my friend, “I wasted the last 20 years of my life. You know why? Because starting at 70, I stayed in my room all day, certain that I was facing death. And my family would crowd around me and say, Grandpa, Father, you can’t sit here all day. Let’s go on a vacation, a walk, down to the beach. And I’d reply, Go without me. I’m old and weak. And I turned 80. I was even more sure that I was going to die. I stayed in my room, turning on the TV, lying on my bed, eating my meals. And my family told me, Come out with us. Enjoy some fresh air. Go out to dinner with us. You know what I said? I said, I’m about to die. I shouldn’t be enjoying life. And…here I am. I’ve survived the past 20 years. And I didn’t do a single thing which I could look back on as memories.”
Live your life. I can’t tell you how to live it.
But please make sure one thing: that you can look back when you’re 70, or 80, or 90 years old and you can say, “I have memories.”
Well, that’s that.
Thanks for listening. …Carry on!