Long Life 5/16/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

From a strictly biological perspective, the only reason for life is procreation, and, from that perspective, the best chance at procreation is a long life. But I like to give humanity the benefit of the doubt and assume that most of us have evolved beyond those strictly biological urges, seeking fulfillment, wisdom and growth.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the importance of a long life, and, frankly, I’m not sure that should be the main focus. I understand the desire for a long life, but isn’t it more important to have one that is fulfilling?

The ancient Greeks had a saying that basically goes “call no man lucky until he is dead.” No, they didn’t crave death, but their manner of death was very important to them, specifically how their burial is handled. This saying comes from a story of a man of means with several sons. Surely, with so many sons and having money in the family, his sons would step up to be sure that his funeral would be an honorable one with all due accolades. However, when he did pass, his sons more or less abandoned his body was simply abandoned without the funeral that he should have been afforded. People assumed that he was lucky to have money and sons to give him the proper “sendoff”, but, well, you can never assume anybody is lucky until you see how he is buried.

As for me, I like Steve Martin’s desire for a simple funeral, like that of “old” King Tut.

Actually, I’ve never worried about what happens to my remains. I can’t imagine anybody really cares where they end up anyway. I have no wife, and my family has pretty much disowned me, and isn’t a burial and grave more for those left behind? I tried to donate my body to a medical college for their anatomy lab, but the only college interested was a clown college.

Personally, I’ve always been attracted to the Hindu philosophy that the meaning of life is to develop the soul. This is the idea behind reincarnation; each pass through life is another opportunity to learn and develop the soul, wherein your success or failure to do so results in a higher life form to further develop, or a lesser on (like being left back a grade) so you can go back and learn what apparently you missed in previous lives. My understanding is that there is another religious philosophy (although I do not know which) that believes that people are not born with souls but must develop them as one progresses through life.

I have tried to live a life of experiences. Some people seek experiences through chemistry, by for me, my chemical experiences have been through a career which is a little bit different from the way many people use chemistry. I have a scuba license, have performed marriages as a registered minister, had flight lessons, experienced a Native American sweat lodge and religious ceremony, been through graduate school and generally tried many things that are not common.

Not to say that there’s not more I’d like to try. I want to go skydiving, ride a bull (although I may be too old for that one), and travel. Each of these experiences expands my world and enriches my life. I have a friend who is teaching English in Asia. As she travels throughout the continent, she posts pictures that always makes me envious. She is so young, and so incredibly brave. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of her, and how happy I am that her world is expanding through these experiences.

What remains of my belongings are in a storage unit in Iowa about four hours away from me in a tiny little town in a unit that is very much overpriced. I can save about a third of this monthly charge in the storage unit here about two miles away that I found today. I guess I said more than I should have because as I was signing the forms, the manager mentioned that it sounds as if I had been through a tough time lately. Okay, I have, and my readers know this. I don’t try to hide my tough times, and hopefully have not come across like I blame others, but I can tell you that it’s because of these experiences that my world is bigger today than it was a few years ago. I have learned so much from this streak of luck that I could not have learned had my career trajectory continued in the direction it was heading.

I think of the ultra-wealthy and how much of the world they see, but, in reality, how much do they actually experience? Is a luxury hotel in Singapore any different from a luxury hotel in New York? Would they take the time to visit the people and get to know the culture, or would they simply eat the best catered meals wherever they happen to be? Are their experiences really growing?

I hope I never know everything. How boring would that be? Each new experience, good, bad or indifferent is another growth opportunity for me.

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