Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.
Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist
While I agree with the esteemed author Paulo Coelho of life being either too short or too long, this half-statement of his is a mere generality. I prefer to look at the world, my world, not through generalities but with objective reflections. At my age, the life to come is empirically now shorter, I can’t say that it will definitively conclude by being “too short” or “too long” it will simply be shorter than the past life I have thus far lived. And like some of you depending on your age, being circumspect about what lies ahead, I am drawn to another contemplation, this one by the highly respected commentator on life’s meaning and purpose – Viktor Frankl.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
This past weekend, a long holiday weekend in many parts, was a remarkably emotional and soulful time for me. It was a more intense “time-off” than is my norm; perchance I was endeavouring to pack as much into these days as is humanly possible. I am not sure if it was subconsciously a result of my first bicycle accident the weekend prior after seven years of adopting this activity as my primary warm weather vocation. It was however just a T-bone crash with another cyclist and I’m delighted to report both riders – save for a few bruises were relatively unscathed. It was our bicycles however that took the brunt of the damage.
I spent the weekend connecting to events and people that were immensely meaningful to me. From special friends and family to a bridge and just my own private thoughts, I was deeply engaged in trying to define my purpose and figure it all out with the short or long life I have remaining.
Making soulful and personal connections in whatever manner they are can be spellbinding and were. Who would have thought that a bridge could ensnare me in such a manner causing me to be lost in multiple simultaneous sensory vibrations? A bridge is just a thing of course, but behind the “thing” are people and memories.
Family is also a treasure that we try to hold on to or in many cases (mine) reclaim as our lives become shorter. I know however that family reunification is not legitimately possible or desirable for everyone – but I hope you might give it some extra consideration while you still can. I spent a lot of time with my precious family too this weekend and I have to highlight the time spent with my 82, she’ll say almost 83 year-old mother. She’s been saying that just a few months after her 82nd! I did something special with her and she was overwhelmed by it. My first reaction was one of shame and guilt for not doing more of it. But my attitude quickly changed. I can choose my attitude as Viktor Frankl wrote and I look forward to my next special outing with my dear mother.
Connections, real ones are essential now to me in ways dissimilar than ever before. My search for Frankl’s meaning is taking centre stage as I contemplate that next milestone. It’s not about being frivolous or not with the time that we have. For me it’s about being in the moment and thinking and feeling and not just doing whatever you want with no meaning or purpose. For the record, “playing” is purposeful if that is what one desires in that moment.
As I travel along, I can’t help but see our greatest potential for positive change lay in modifying our own attitude concerning how we see and react to the stimuli swirling around us on a daily basis. Frankl nailed this. Choosing our attitude “is” our greatest freedom. One who is rich or poor, healthy or ill can acquire such freedom. It is not subject to supply and demand economics for it is in limitless supply.
Whether or not life is shorter for us individually is inconsequential for who truly knows anyway? It is however never too soon to check-in with ourselves and taste true freedom.