(One) not busy being born is busy dying… Bob Dylan
I’ve written before about the futility of lamenting, ignoring or distorting the facts of our real situations as we walk our paths through life. The failure to accept what is – while not losing sight of the likelihood that it can be improved – is a very common source of distress, frustration and wasted time. I speak from personal experience with this observation. After years of study of human psychology and thousands of hours working with others to resolve life’s inevitable difficulties, I am pleased each time I am able to overcome my impatience with things not matching my expectations and preferences, exercising instead a closer examination of the facts of the matter. When we really think about it, it’s clear that a firm grounding in reality is the best place to start effectively dealing with whatever challenges we face.
Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe not, but this is the first column in the series for some months. When I was leading the sessions in January and February at the North Hawai`i Education and Research Center on the subject of “living well as long as possible” I didn’t have time to work on writing about it. After the course was complete, I had lost traction with the process and didn’t get back to it until now. I need your help in deciding whether or not the time and effort involved in producing this material serves a useful purpose for our community.
As I attempt to engage with the task of writing this I have been forced to recognize that my enthusiasm for engaging with the facts of aging and the ultimate outcome of getting older is not widely shared. It’s been said that there is nothing certain but death and taxes, and it seems that few of us really want to deal with either. It’s easy to relate to that dislike and yet there are many reasons to overcome our hesitation and to discover what we can do to reduce the undesirable parts of what absolutely must be (I’m really talking about the approaching end of life, since the matter of taxation has many more possible outcomes).
The story of the Buddha is based on the transformation of a privileged and protected young prince who belatedly observes the reality of old age, sickness and death. He is shocked into a fully committed quest for the fundamental truth of life to deal with these facts. Modern research into human well-being supports the importance of contemplative practices and many other choices that improve our condition and our ability to deal with the transitions associated with aging. We all will die and unless somethings more suddenly cuts us off from living, we have to go through the process of aging. There are lots of ways to do that, and the choices we make in this regard can make major differences in how it goes for us and those around us. I’m interested in everyone doing the best we can with these choices and think it’s useful for us to share what we can learn about them.
© 2016 Hugh R. Montgomery, PhD