As I have reached my 70th birthday, I took time to reflect on LIFE. I never thought I would ever reach this age, nor did I ever believe that I would see the 21st Century. So, what brought me here? What did I learn and what did I find that was more important to me in later years than in my early years?
What I found that are important are:
FRIENDSHIP & LOVE
One can successfully live on some lonely island in the middle of the ocean, all alone, never having contact with another human being. Food and water and shelter are all that is necessary to sustain life at its most basic level.
But human beings have a psychological need for contact with other human beings. As a young man, I had friends, but I never gave proper thought to the importance of those friends. If some outside source came between us, I always went towards what was better for me, physically or financially. Today I know that little in life is more important than having a small circle of friends.
Perhaps the only thing more important than friendship is love. I have loved and I love today. Today, after seventy years of learning, I can’t imagine life without love. Love, to me, is giving without thought of return on that giving. Giving solely because of the love a person feels for another person and for no other reason. Love is setting one’s self aside for the person one loves; doing without so that the person loved can have everything.
It’s as simple as that.
Reading a book or watching a TV show on some exotic place cannot and never will replace actually being there. Cost of travel of course may be a problem to many people in today’s tough economy. But, for me at least, setting aside other not-so-important things – boats, motorcycles, beer, etc. – so that travel can be possible is very important as a part of a full life.
I cannot imagine life without travel. Over the years I have met several people who in their lifetime have never left the confines of their hometown. That is the truth, believe it or not.
There is an age old saying, “Travel broadens the mind.” What I know is that travel makes me honor and appreciate what we have in the United States. The freedom, the economy, the lifestyles; nowhere in the world do I find people who have what we are blessed with. But why, is the big question?
I believe our blessed lives are the result of our American Revolution and our Constitution, granting us power OVER our government. No other Country or people in the world I have seen have this. And in my present years, after 70 years of life, I now see our lifestyle and freedom and economy slipping away in favor of the lesser lifestyles and freedoms and economies of Socialist Europe and the theocratic dictatorships of the Middle East.
Without travel one cannot know this fact.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learned over the years, for keeping one’s mind sharp, is education. Taking an evening City College course in anything can keep the old wheels grinding away in one’s brain. It really doesn’t matter what kind of study one does, just get out, sign up, and take the class.
Pick a subject that you enjoy, a foreign language, history, mathematics, computer programming, anything. But never stop learning.
FOOD AND WINE
You may find it unusual that I place food and wine in a category on life’s most important things. Let me explain. I grew up in semi-poverty, where luxuries were unknown. Food may always have been there, but it was the basics of food, and usually out of a can.
Having lived some of my younger years in Europe, traveling in those 1960’s – “Following the Sun” – I came to realize that great food and good wines are a vital part of enjoying life.
Staying away from fast foods and frozen, prepared foods, and eating small portions of the best prepared and best food in the best restaurants, is a pleasure that must be enjoyed in order to enjoy the best aspects of a full life.
Wine, as they say, is the lifeblood of a good life. It is to be enjoyed often and used as often as possible to flavor the good food one eats. One need not spend thousands of dollars on a 100 year old rare vintage; excellent wines can be had for $10.00 to $50.00.
Find a wine you enjoy – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, any wine – and enjoy it every day. It is a health food, in fact; good for the heart, raises HDL, and contains many anti-carcinogens.
And a premium cigar after a fine dinner, with a cognac, is the icing on the cake of life.
In closing, life is to be enjoyed. Life is much too short if one takes in all the pleasures of life. There simply isn’t enough time. So start early, find out what you like, find friends and keep them, find love and keep it, travel, learn, and seek out foods that bring pleasure to your life.
Notice here that I have not mentioned work. Some people live to work. I learned early on to work to live. If you are lucky enough to work at what you love to do, the work will become pleasure.