I love sitting in silence and solitude by the koi pond listening to the soothing waterfalls and watching the smooth movement of the koi, forcing myself to come terms with the time and place I’m in. It creates a peaceful awareness that life is being renewed every moment, that change is a constant. For me its a time of relaxation when there are no battles being fought, when fears and anxieties dissipate, when pains ease. It’s a time when I can focus on what is good, right, true, meaningful, significant. It’s a time when worry and doubt are replaced by joy, love, living, imagination, creativity. It’s a time that reminds me not to let the worse of life get to me and get a hold of me, but to let the best of life shine through me. I particularly may need that now, for I may be put into a corner I don’t want to be in and may have to make a decision I don’t want to make. But, that’s life, and it is whatever I make of it.
On the surface, life is filled with a heck of a lot swirling eddies of adventure, activity, change, confusion, excitement, joy, and frustration. It has it’s ups and downs. It throws you change-ups, sliders, and curve balls. Trust me, I know that only too well, especially now. No one can drive you crazier or make you happier than someone or something you love. That is true for me with Susie, with my sons, with my grandmunchkins, with the students, teaching, and with life in general. There’s a gordian knot of enchantment and pain, of ecstasies and agonies, of serenity and disturbance, amusing chatter and serious discussion, that no one can separate. But, underlying it all, I find abiding peace and goodness that can never be denied if I joyfully travel life with an inner and outer smile. I am alive and kicking. I am living. I am not homesick for places I haven’t been to. So, I am obliged to act like it rather than lethargically lying down and playing dead. No door will open unless I first knock. That means I am here to make things happen by vagabonding and practicing the art of travel: questioning, learning, loving, adventuring, exploring, and experiencing. When a problem comes along, I am supposed to solve it. When an opportunity appears, I expect myself to jump right into it. When conditions change, I must adapt. When I encounter beauty, I enjoy it. When I run into hardship, I survive it. This is life and what it’s all about. Sure, life has it’s ups and downs but it’s that attitude that will stop or at least slow your ups from getting pulled down and will more easily pull up your downs.
I am presently 71 years young, soon to celebrate my 72nd birthday on November 1, All Saints Day (my Susie says that if there was ever a contradiction, this is it). I may be in what others call my “sunset years,” but, damn, I live only “sunrise days.” I always say that while I may be getting older, I refuse to get old. A life needs a reason to be lived just as a Random Thought needs a reason to be written. They’re considered acts. They need a “why to persist,” not a desperate hunt for a “way to persist.” By that I mean I’ve learned that I only grow old when I stop growing and changing, when I stop filling the years with significance.
Free Forums Press just published the fourth volume of collect Random Thoughts, subtitled “The Passion of Teaching,” or what I call in the introduction “hokey pokey teaching.” But, for me, authentic success is not that addition to my book shelf or another line in my resume. Real accomplishment can’t be measured by what I consume or own. You see, I firmly believe that success, true achievement, lies not in having this or this, not in getting this or that, not having this or that experience, not in having done this or that, not having a longevity. True success lies in knowing that things will tear, rust, crumble, and fade; it’s knowing, as it is said, that if you love things, you’ll never have enough things; it’s knowing, as it is also said, that it’s pointless to gain the whole world and lose yourself. The energy I use to effectively get things done doesn’t come from things; it comes from the purpose inherent in my vision that is inside me. I have learned if I have that energy, I don’t have to look for someone or something to motivate or inspire me. The more I am driven and guided by purpose and significance, the more energy I have to draw on to do more and more significant things, and express my own specialness.
Success for me is living an honest life rather than staged authenticity, of living well rather than just doing well, of living richly rather than getting rich, of personally buy into rather than merely materially being bought, of living uncompromisingly each day as the person I am and as the person I am becoming, of living Emerson’s “independence of solitude” in the midst of the crowd. For me, true success is “rocking it,” to be quick and constantly in motion with an unshakeable faith in myself, to embrace each moment as it comes, living to the steady beat of the active pursuit of excellence, to have persistent and positive expectations. I see true success as having the dynamic of love as the top priority, of giving love, and of living love each day. I accept true success only as living unbending, steady, decisively, courageously, and unafraid against the inevitably occurring winds, chills, and darknesses. True success is being the person who knows what is significant, as the person who lives from his heart and soul, as the person who lives honestly, as the person who has a joy of life, falls in love with life, and lives it fully each and every day.
Last month I told you that my daily motto is “Cogito ergo semper gratiam habebe”: I think therefore I am always grateful. I told you even earlier that my formula for effective action is K.I.S.S.E.D.: keep it simple and significant every day.” Those “formulae” for living each day, along with my daily “Word To Live By Today,” my “Teacher’s Oath,” my “Ten Commandments For Teaching,” and my perspective on all aspects of life, my definition of success, rest on a firm foundation of M68ED: ”Micah 6:8 Every Day!”