We were having a dinner table conversation about the long passage of my life tonight and someone, someone related to me, was aghast at how old my pending age of 58 sounded to his young ears.
“Yea, I’m definitely beginning to approach middle age,” I said. A debate ensued that covered topics such as the age of dirt, general decay, and feebleness.
My birthday is in six weeks and I plan to ride my bike 58 miles in celebration that day, a little nod to ego and a kick in the butt to get me out of bed to train every morning, Not only do I like to write checks my body has to struggle to cash; I also like the idea of letting my closest supporters know that I am not quite ready for assisted living.
That ego thing is something I need to monitor constantly, I have a healthy dose of it. Too healthy. The need to be right, to be the smartest guy in the room is always worth keeping an eye on; you miss a lot of good stuff if you always have to show everyone how smart you are.
Getting older is an opportunity to shut up and listen, to learn a little, to enjoy yourself a little more. And to laugh at yourself. We are, after all is said and done, illusions. We have the illusion of immortality, the illusion of power, the illusion of ego. In the end, it turns out the Beatles were pretty close to right, the love you make is equal to the love you take. And I am pretty sure that the only thing that isn’t an illusion is love.
It’s about giving and receiving.
Tonight I got to fix dinner for my family while holding my Grandson, listen to the banter about my age at dinner, and then play guitar for that Grandson on the porch. He doesn’t care how old I am or how right I am, he just knows that I love him and we laugh a lot when we are together. I got to actively love. Cooking, talking, and playing music were all acts of love and a chance to share what matters the most to me with some of the people who matter the most to me. Last weekend I got to swim with another Grandson, I got to actively love him too. Someday, when he is ready to turn 58, I hope he remembers that.
Active love is becoming more and more of a theme in my life.
I’m thinking of this because of a discussion my wife and I had after church today, I suggested that while there may be a final judgement and all that, there is a more immediate benefit to living a spiritual life: happiness. I’m okay with a little unknown when it comes to the supernatural, there’s a lot of mysteries I don’t know, but I am sure of this:
A life filled with Actively loving, I am here to tell you, is much more enjoyable than a life consumed by ego, the pursuit of material goods, and playing to “win” and keeping score. Religion, when viewed in this light, is more or less a series of best practices. Releasing envy, judging others less harshly, and loving your neighbor is, quite simply, a way to have a good day, everyday. I’m a Christian, so I can give you quotes from the New Testament to back this up, Jesus was giving us advice to be humble, to be present, to be grateful, and to love. And, I know enough about other religions to know that they all have similar messages.
If you come from love and release anger and competitiveness life gets a lot easier. Taking care of yourself and loving those around you is pretty much a full time job and spending your time living in a world full of gossip, back biting, and nagging is no way to live: in this life or the next. The ego is a dangerous thing, when we raise our own self importance, when we always have to be right, when we believe illusions; we temporarily reward the ego, and: we teach it to demand more satisfaction, pretty soon we can miss a lot of the joy in life by becoming overly righteous, all knowing, insecure, and just plain insufferable.
Drama, I am fond of saying lately, lurks. Drama is the imposition of ego on others by the righteous, the all knowing, the insecure, and the insufferable. James Taylor, a pretty clever guy said, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” and I am here to bear witness to the fact that expecting the best from people and enjoying their company is a lot healthier than the alternative. Part of enjoying the passage of time is an acceptance of life, a release of control and a curiosity about how it all turns out. Wisdom comes when you quit worrying about how the world will remember you and whether you have left the world better for having been here.
I wanted to share this with you today in case you need a little reminder or if you know someone who needs a little love. There are a lot of lonely people out there, they may even be people you see every day, and the act of loving, of giving someone a smile, a meal, or a song on a guitar might make all the difference.