Once again, the world is churning in turmoil today, this time in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks yesterday. Again, my heart aches for all those affected and those in fear. My anger rises in righteous indignation of those who could commit such atrocities.
It happens every day, though... entire communities massacred, neighborhood blocks demolished, traumatized refugees fleeing with hungry and hurt children in tow.
In midst of all this, I write of finding one's path forward in life, of flourishing, and of finding a way to express yourself in the world before the end of our days. Some might call this a great folly, an extravagance of and only for those who can afford it. But where would we be without our individual flourishing and without our effort to strive to be our best selves and to contribute in the world as we can?
If we, who are capable of caring and daring to grow, do not due to fear, or indecision, or resignation, who will? Who will provide the backbone to our shared humanity? As Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Islamic scholar declared, "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop." We are each a reflection of the entire expanse of humanity, the good and the bad. So develop a backbone, and be a force for the good.
Look, they say that aging is the great leveler. If we are lucky enough to grow old, all the follies and experiences of our times will be behind us, our mortal beings simply trying to exist. In my parents' assisted care facility, the Silent Generation, those now in their 80's and 90's, sit side by side in wheelchairs. They are friends and former adversaries, Jews next to Germans, American military men next to my aged Japanese parents. (Sadly, the socioeconomic barriers still have not broken down, so there are few black and brown faces.) The elders are simply waiting together, perhaps for their meals, all suffering in some ways, but if you look closely, you'll notice that some among them are managing to radiate a sense of lightness and giving comfort to others, in spite of their personal circumstances and histories. I can only hope to grow old like that.
My parents were teens during the war. Like many affected by the worst of violence, my mother, as a young teen, fled from cave to cave in search of food, safety, and her family members during the great Battle of Okinawa, caught between retreating Japanese forces and the onslaught of American forces by air and land. Still later, she and my father were able to come to study in the United States, assisted by the goodwill of many. As a family, we lived in student housing and good people helped us along the way, bringing us school supplies and teaching us how to celebrate Thanksgiving and roast a turkey whole. I'm telling you all this because the grace of people helping people and caring for others is going on all the time. It's going on right now the world over, and especially in Paris. Take heart in humanity, even in the worst of days.
If we, as the adults of our society, can't uphold this - our shared humanity - our youth will be lost, and in fact, the very fabric of our society is weakened. So laugh when you will, cry when you need, care as you can, and be your best self. I'm going to keep doing full force what I know to do.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.