By Tim Hayes
It’s a little over three months away, and I keep working to convince myself that it’s no big deal. Just a number.
But staring down the barrel of 60? Every now and then, it feels like more than just a number. It’s a hinge. A pivot point. A major mile marker. Soren knew.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
On the cusp of my sixth decade, little gems like that seem to stand out more and more. It’s like the old embroidered Pennsylvania Dutch wall hanging: “I AM TOO SOON OLT AND TOO LATE SHMART.”
This condition has plagued the human race since the Garden of Eden. Why didn’t Cain, the world’s first murderer, just talk to his Mom and Dad about the Abel thing? Maybe it was because Adam and Eve were still running around in their birthday suits, and it made him squeamish. But even so, seeking out some guidance from his folks – who, after all, had some years of experience on him – might have saved Cain from a lifetime of guilt, grief, and groveling, and his brother Abel from having his lifetime cut way too short.
Huh? What’s that? Who’s Soren, you ask? Why, it’s my old friend Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existential philosopher from the 19th Century, of course. Who else would it be? Jackie Gleason? Kanye West? C’mon, you guys.
Anyway, back to Kierkegaard. Here’s another mind-blower to chew on.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
Why don’t they tell us these things when we’re in high school and college? Unless you’re a philosophy major, pearls of wisdom like this come way, way, way too late, if at all. Can you imagine the heartache and angst and hair-rippingly intense bouts of doubt and fear that could have been avoided with this knowledge firmly embedded in your brain?
Problem? What problem? I’m simply experiencing a new reality. Back off, Jack. Hey! You! Get off’a my cloud!
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought, which they seldom use.”
Good heavens, does THIS one feel all too real this election cycle! Another pretty smart dude, Thomas Jefferson, once noted that people would prefer to do almost anything but think. Get ready for a growing cacophony of unthinking, high-volume, uber-strident voices reaching a crescendo on November 3. Maybe longer.
Freedom of speech? Yay! Applied, rational, reasoned, able-to-be-influenced thought behind it? Meh. That’s the American electorate. Which leads us directly to…
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
Oh, Soren. You clever little Dutch boy. Can we be too free? Can people carry their boundless insistence on a personal lack of inhibition to extremes? Even to the detriment of others?
Ask the anti-maskers. The anti-social distancers. The anti-vaxxers. Their behavior answers those questions in spectacularly self-centered fashion. A person’s individual freedom stops where it impinges on another’s – or when it impacts the larger societal good. Or at least that’s how this country used to think.
Instead, as a result of all this unrestrained “freedom,” we’re in even worse shape as a nation in August than we were in April regarding containing the coronavirus. Dizzy and anxious. But gosh, so “free.”
“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”
Looking at 60 straight in the eye, this one hits home. Sure, have a plan in mind. Yes, know what you’d like to accomplish. But it’s more important to get started, get moving, get the show on the road.
I have some things that have been bugging me for years to get done, but I’ve failed miserably – and mostly because the ideal vision of what the finished result would be made starting the effort feel too daunting. Well, that horseshit way of thinking is over.
The late car industry leader Lee Iacocca once said, “I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”
Life ain’t perfect. Neither am I. Neither are you. So let’s cut ourselves some slack and keep moving ahead, doing the best we can. Soren’s brain drippings may help. Looking backwards to understand, living forwards to apply that understanding.
What that says to me, anyway, is that crossing into the sixties means having the confidence and control to trust in one’s own judgment, to savor the good stuff right now, and to believe in the joy, happiness, and satisfaction of things still to come. I think Kierkegaard would agree.
Copyright 2020 Timothy P. Hayes