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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Dogs, New Tricks

There is an adage that says you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks. Hogwash!   I have reflected on this because many of my dearest friends are turning sixty this year -- and over the next few years.  SIXTY is a big number, they tell me, because -- in a best case scenario -- you have already lived substantially more than half of your life.  Suddenly, this notion about living life to the fullest (“Carped diem, after all) begins to seem starkly relevant.  Turning sixty can serve as a benchmark for one’s achievements.  Sixty can precipitate feelings of gratitude, humility and joy.  For those whose eyes are cast downward, sixty brings with it an impending sense of doom.  I overheard one friend asking another, “I have worked so hard my entire life. is this it?  This....a mortgage, three weeks vacation and a comfortable car is the apex of a lifetime of hard labor?" 
 Here is my idea for discussion’s sake...picture the span of life that you have left to enjoy,.  Imagine it as trapped inside a block of ice.  You can’t control the ambient temperature.  It is set such that the ice melts reliably, slowly and persistently.   The inescapable truth is that there is no renegotiating terms and there is nothing we can do to change the inevitability that the ice will melt. The bell will toll for thee when the ice melts entirely.  However, we can enjoy the time we have, do the things we have always wanted to do. If we surrender to the truth that we are mortal, (that the ice will melt), we can then move on and refocus our attention on the things we want to do and work more diligently on becoming the person we want to be.  Our sense of mortality, need not be an impediment to enjoying life.  Rather, it should be exactly that which impels us to live our lives as fully as possible.
I wondered if I might be on the wrong track with my thinking.  Flipping through quotations from some history's great thinkers, I discovered that I was on to something.  Maybe, just maybe, with what life we have to left to work,  we can teach old dogs new tricks...And maybe, in the teaching, we will learn some, too.

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.  ~Stephen Vincent Benét

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  ~Fr. Alfred D'Souza

[They are...} Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.  Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance.  Everyone is just waiting.  ~Dr. Seuss
You will never find time for anything.  If you want time you must make it.  ~Charles Buxton
Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.  ~Mark Twain

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