I was born in Jackson on July 23, 1948. Nineteen-forty-eight. That means I hit 55 a couple of weeks ago.
There’s something sobering about qualifying for senior citizen discounts and, at many companies, early retirement. I don’t feel old and still have lots of things I want to do. However, I am increasingly aware that the clock is ticking.
I think one may acquire a degree of wisdom just from being around for a long time. I see younger folks doing things that I believe they’ll regret one day and I just want to sit them down and get them straightened out. But, alas, they wouldn’t listen to me anymore than I would have listened at their age.
What would I tell them? What have I learned over these years to justify the air I have breathed and the space I have taken up?
First, I would tell them to take life a little slower and enjoy life everyday. Time passes so very fast and increasingly so the older one becomes. Today just may be all we have and we need to make the best of it. I doubt that anyone’s deathbed wish is that they had worked longer hours. Perhaps, but I doubt it.
Once one slows the pace a bit and comes up for air, the spiritual aspect of life takes on more meaning. Regardless of what we believe about the prospect of an afterlife, death is a reality. Whether one subscribes to one of the revealed religions or, alternatively, doubts whether God has ever really communicated with people, the fact that humans are created with a conscience that does not exist in other animals must have some relevance. If humans have been set aside to possess a sense of right and wrong, there must be a reason and purpose for it. If there is a purpose, then there will be consequences for choosing between right and wrong. I would encourage youngsters to contemplate these lofty questions and decide what they really, really believe about the spiritual nature of man and then live in accordance with those beliefs.
Next, I would tell them to be less concerned about what others think and more concerned about what we ourselves think. Happiness really doesn’t come from measuring up to society’s whims, but comes flowing from a life lived well. Pleasing God is all that really matters in life. Not that I advocate outright nonconformism, but our society often takes wrong directions as we meander along the path of defining our national soul. Taking an unpopular stand on an issue of substance can sometimes help society redefine its thinking and make things better for everyone. That never happens if everyone tries to follow the path of social consensus.
I would tell them to respect their health. I have not done well in this area and I’m reaping the rewards of a life of neglect and overindulgence. It’s a mistake to think that you’re bulletproof and, after all, still have plenty of time to straighten up. Lack of respect for health in the early years causes problems aplenty in later life. Our minds and bodies are made to be active but our society worships at the alter of inactivity. Convenience and saved effort seems to be a primary goal in life for many people. However, going against the flow and burning some calories will pay rewards throughout life.
I am satisfied that spirituality and relationships with other people are the most important aspects of life. As such, they deserve to be carefully nurtured and allowed to blossom. Taking God, friends and family for granted is a serious mistake but it’s so easy to do in the hustle and bustle of living in our fast paced world. If it truly is the most important part of life, it deserves appropriate attention even at the risk of missed financial opportunities.
Well, I don’t suppose these remarks are worthy of the acclaim of a Cotton Mather sermon, but they do reflect the thoughts of a reluctantly aging Baby Boomer. With the wisdom I think I have acquired by traveling the rough road to maturity I’m looking forward to the years ahead. Near the end of my father’s life he told me he had done just about everything he wanted to do, that God had never let him down and he had no fear of death. That’s the path I’m trying to follow.
Thought for the Moment — When you’ve got an elephant by the hind leg and he’s trying to run away, it’s best to let him run. — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.