ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

50 Observations From 50 Trips Around The Sun

Image: Adobe Stock

In celebration of my reaching the milestone of quinquagenarian today, here are fifty things I’ve noticed on this wild and wacky ride we call life.

Disclaimer: These are simply my observations. I may be wrong about any number of them (except for the examples cited in #12).

Enjoy!

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1. Life is unpredictable. No one’s life turns out just as they expected it would. To me, this suggests that humility is pretty much always called for and compassion a sign of wisdom.

2. What we know and understand about life and the world is dwarfed by that which we do not. We rarely, if ever, know the *whole* story behind something. To me, this suggests that humility is pretty much always called for and compassion a sign of wisdom.

3. Embracing contradiction is an important part of living well and achieving internal peace. Examples: valuing both self-discipline and flexibility; effort and acceptance; planning and spontaneity; solitude and company; the individual and society; exertion and rest; and so on.

4. A long walk, especially out in nature, is one of the best things for mind, body, and soul.

5. Gratitude is an orientation that can make all the difference in how you feel about your life, regardless of your circumstances. It is about feeling blessed for your good fortune, whatever that happens to look like, or however you perceive it, in any given situation.

I got a profound lesson in this one day while volunteering at a hospital. I visited a patient who had been through hell and back numerous times. I don’t even recall the specifics of his condition or the ordeals he had endured, other than they sounded horrific to me. What I do remember is him telling me, with as much sincerity as I’ve ever heard from anyone: “I’m so lucky. I have the best doctors and am getting such great care. I’m so lucky.” It floored me.

6. Every decision involves trade-offs. Some will be known to us in advance, others will not (see #1). The best decisions are made with a decent understanding of what we are risking and what we stand to gain and determining that even if things do not turn out as we hope, the decision will still have been one worth making.

7. As humans (presuming a certain baseline of health and functionality), we get to explore ourselves and our own potential, as well as the world around us. People who harbor curiosity and an interest in learning new things are at a clear advantage.

8. Few things are as liberating as letting go of an attachment to a particular result.

9. Few things are as helpful as being kind and compassionate towards yourself.

10. Nothing lasts forever. To me, this means that no matter how painful or unpleasant something is, realizing that it is temporary can be immensely reassuring (“This, too, shall pass…”). It also emphasizes to me the importance of savoring and appreciating those things — and people — we love.

11. It is all too easy to judge others, to make assumptions, to absorb the messages we are bombarded with by our environments, and to take things personally. Therefore, it requires effort, vigilance, and consciousness to refrain from doing these things. (Thank you to the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.)

12. The best metric I have come up with for measuring the greatness of musical works is that truly great music never loses its power and magic even after countless repeated listens. I submit as prime examples: much of the music of Beethoven, and of The Beatles.

13. “We’re all a bunch of complicated weirdos.” My wife gets the credit for this one. She managed to sum up the nature of our species in just two words. ❤️

14. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

15. Anyone can criticize; what takes effort is putting yourself out there. By doing or creating something yourself you gain a much deeper appreciation for what goes into it.

16. Wow, is it difficult to be present. To not be lost in thought about things other than our immediate, direct experience. However, being present is the only way to not miss out on huge swaths of our actual lives.

17. One of the keys to performing well in a variety of scenarios is being, or becoming, relaxed.

18. Smartphones and related technologies are incredibly addictive and hugely distracting. We must be mindful in setting boundaries with our devices if we are not to have our attention constantly hijacked by them. Good luck to us all…

19. The fewer conditions you impose, consciously or otherwise, before allowing happiness and contentment into your life, the more likely you are to experience these things.

20. We all have things that we say we value. However, what we *actually* value is revealed by our behavior: i.e., the decisions we make and the things we devote our time, energy, attention, and money to.

21. It seems to me that no two people on earth are quite as capable of disappointing one another as a parent and a child (this goes in both directions). Such is the emotional charge of this unique human relationship.

22. One of the defining characteristics of our species: we have no idea what we’re doing. (This should be obvious!)

23. One of the most defining characteristics of life is mystery, death being perhaps the greatest mystery of all.

24. It’s a great feeling when your past self has paid it forward to your present self. Example: waking up to a space you spent the previous day cleaning up.

25. Aging creeps up on you. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you realize you have memories (or articles of clothing!) older than many of the people around you who are driving automobiles, flying airplanes, or even performing complex surgeries.

26. As you get older, medical problems you previously never even realized were “a thing” start becoming a thing.

27. People often have a strong bias (be it positive or negative) towards where they grew up.

28. It’s a miracle any of us is here, given the odds. And, given the technology we have had at our disposal since the last century to wipe out humanity or a substantial portion thereof, it’s a miracle we’re still here at all.

29. We can’t handle the truth. (Thank you, Jack Nicholson.)

30. The value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated.

31. Knowing thyself is a lifelong undertaking.

32. We are creatures of habit, whether those habits are acquired consciously or not. Therefore, it behooves us to a) become aware of our habits as they currently stand, b) determine which of those we wish to rid ourselves of and work towards doing so, and c) determine those habits we would like to adopt or strengthen, and actively cultivate them. Habits are going to dictate lots of our behavior (and, therefore, results) no matter what; we might as well have some say about them.

33. The more we engage in any activity, the more we strengthen the neural pathways that support our doing it again.

34. It can be surprisingly easy to drop a good habit you’ve been consistent with for a while (for instance, when life circumstances derail you from your usual routine). We must “renew our vows” regularly when it comes to those habits we wish to maintain.

35. Minimizing regret seems about as admirable a goal for one’s life as any. (And, since most people’s deathbed regrets are ones of omission rather than commission, it begs the question: what do you want to make sure you do while you still can?)

36. The paths to self-acceptance and self-love might be difficult ones, but they are worth every step.

37. One of the keys to enjoying life is having “favorite things” and regularly making time for them.

38. Sometimes we can’t make any sense of experiences we have, or see the ways in which they may have benefited us, until we look back on them and interpret them in a new way.

39. Life really is about the journey, not the destination. Most of life is process. We all have the same destination.

40. It is interesting to observe how the way we feel about ourselves can change depending on whose company we happen to be in.

41. If you talk on the phone with someone you haven’t seen or spoken with in 20 years or more, they still sound exactly like the person you knew way back when.

42. When I was a kid, I was confounded by my parents’ deep desire for “peace and quiet.” I totally get it now.

43. Think about all of the food you have consumed during the course of your lifetime, and how big a space it would take to contain all of it, uneaten. You can’t imagine it, can you? What about all the human waste you alone have excreted?? Now, multiply that by around 8 billion. 🤯

44. Laughing really hard for a minute straight or longer — that doesn’t happen often enough.

45. We want impossible things. Two examples: wanting things to be other than the way they are, and wanting other people to act how we want them to, out of their own volition.

46. The quality of our relationships (including with ourselves) = the quality of our lives.

47. “Old” is relative!

48. There are more things to be thankful for than it is possible to realize/recognize at any given time. We are benefiting (directly or indirectly) from the labor of others, for instance, all the time. Interconnection is at the heart of all of our experiences.

49. The “human being” gig is a difficult one. I’m convinced this is true for everyone in some respect. To me, this suggests that humility is pretty much always called for and compassion a sign of wisdom.

50. Fifty years goes by fast. And time really does feel like it passes more quickly as you get older.

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Thanks for reading, and best wishes to you wherever you are on your own life journey!

✌️ & 💗

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