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Literature Your Columns Contest Life Can Be Really Depressing

Life Can Be Really Depressing Hot

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This column won the Gold Medal for August, 2010.


I will first present the problem.  Then I will offer a solution.  So, hang in there!


The sadness of the universal sentiment makes us cry in despair, as it did our mothers and fathers, and grandmothers and grandfathers.  Shakespeare says, "Golden lads and girls all must/Like chimney-sweepers, come to dust."  At the end of the movie Out of Africa, the old gentleman at the bar, one of the few survivors of his generation, raises his glass and offers the toast, "Golden girls, light-foot lads," to which his remaining peers respond, sadly but bravely, "Hear, hear."


We start out beautiful and full of life (even those who don't think they look so hot).  We raise our lovely voices in the sacred hymn of our generation's belief that we will be the different ones who bring something new to this poor, thirsting world -- that peace, love and prosperity can come on earth for everyone, as well as physical health and control over all disease -- and that, moreover, we will bring them about and we will live to see the fulfillment of everybody's dreams. 


Those vibrant female voices from the 60s and 70s never fail to bring tears to our eyes when we hear the old recordings; they resonate so deeply inside us that the chord they touch must be real -- these aspirations must be truly attainable!  But we look in the mirror, and our crepe-paper skin is saggy and spotty, and half of our friends have died, and two-thirds of the rest of us are dragging along in penury, making hard decisions every bloody day between paying bills or buying food or medicine.  All baby-boomers have said to that reflection in the mirror, "Who the hell are you?  This can't be right; there's something wrong with this picture.  Maybe I'm just tripping, and will wake up again in 1976."


No doubt about it:  Growing old can be depressing as hell.  Most of those beautiful, empowered women who owned the voices that sang those immortal words and made us believe in Eternal Truth have died from horribly painful illnesses.  The ones who still live have lost their soul mates to cancers, heart attacks, brain aneurisms, Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease.  There is nothing nice about it, and there is nothing fair about it.  Surely such iconic singers of hope, love and joy deserved all the peace, beauty and happiness in the world for the entire length of their blessed lives!  Purely and simply, reality sucks. 


And therein lies the key that we seek:  Reality -- or, rather, what we think reality is……or whether we think reality can be fought and changed, or must be surrendered-to out of our total powerlessness to do anything about it. 


Those who believe in the eternal struggle for Truth and the inevitable triumph of Love refuse to surrender their beliefs in the face of crushing evidence to the contrary.  They interpret such evidence as a delusion, placed in their path to challenge their faith and strengthen their resolve.  These folks have a more positive outlook on aging than those of us who succumb to despair, for their concept of reality is different from ours.  Their reality isn't what seems to be happening, it is the beautiful and divine perfection that underlies all worldly illusion -- and they expect to regain that effulgent splendor after all this crap has been endured.  They will be reunited with those whom they seem to have lost, and together they will explore the glories of the next realm of existence.


They look forward to extended happiness, because they experienced momentary happiness.  And in remembering those moments of happiness and love, they maintain a gentle peace with what they have to endure now.  They feel gratitude that such moments were given them, and they see those moments as a promise of what is to come.


When Leonardo DaVinci was designing his flying machines, he had the courage to believe that his age's failure to create such marvels should not be taken as proof that they would never be created in the future.  The same realization is shared by the wise ones of today, as it relates to human development.  Our failure to attain world peace and the control over all disease should not be taken as proof that humanity will never attain them in the future.  Our suffering and sacrifices will be combined with our parents' and grandparents' contributions……all laying the groundwork for the blessings yet to come.


Life has shown me, over and over again, that reality truly is in the mind of the beholder.  So it's up to you to decide which scenario is real.  You have a clear choice between despairing in the face of what seems to be real, or refusing to be taken-in by the evil illusion.  If you really believe in Karma and The Golden Rule, then good fortune must come to those who practice good works and good thoughts; there can be no other way for the scientific principle to work out! 


A very wise man once said, "He (or she) who endures to the end will be saved."  Sounds like a promise to me. 

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