Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Full Moon Thought - Every Day Is Precious

Recently Kathleen's parents visited from Waco. They looked good, considering they're in their mid-80s. Even so, it was hard not to notice the infirmities of aging. According to her dad, being old sucks.

I'm sure it does. No more water-skiing. No more camping and fishing in Colorado. No more boating. No more driving. No more gardening. No more helping friends with home repairs. No more walking the dog.

I sometimes wonder how being in my 80s will suck for me.

I was having such thoughts one evening as we returned home from town. It was the first day of autumn and a full moon hung low and huge in the sky. I was wondering how many times in my life I had seen the full moon. And how many more full moons I have left.

To get real, I sometimes run the numbers. A quick calculation told me that I've already lived nearly 24,000 days. If I live to be 90, as both my grandfathers did, I will have lived about 33,000 days. That leaves only 9,000 more days left to me. That means I have about 320 full moons left. A month from now, it will be only 319.

And that's if accident, disease or something worse doesn't get me first. I have good genes, and I take pretty good care of myself, but who knows what could happen? Who knows what surprises are in store for me? One surprise I've already ruled out. Scientists won't figure out how to end aging in my lifetime. I know they're working feverishly on it as I write, but this monumental feat of science is for coming generations, not mine.

Time is precious. While it's always been true that I don't have an infinite number of days left, at my age the realities of aging are more real to me. I'm sure that to Kathleen's dad, they're a lot more real than they are for me.

I've found that thoughts like these lead to right actions. They make me want to do the things that mean the most to me, to be productive and appreciate my life, to be sure I make the most of every single day.

There's precious little time for wrong careers, wrong jobs, wrong priorities, wrong relationships. I know lots of people who live their lives on automatic pilot, letting other people tell them what to do and how to act, wasting one day after another on meaningless nonsense.

I know it's hard for young people to "get real." And to many people, entertaining mortal thoughts may seem morbid. Why spoil the fun? What's the point, if people end up feeling gloomy?

True. But what's the point if at the end of one's days a life doesn't add up to something valuable? What if all of it seems like one big, boring afternoon? What's the point if you end up wasting your life?

A Fortune Cookie...

Live this day as if it's your last, and you will spend it well.

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Moon photo used with permission from Wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License)


Anonymous said...

Your full moon counter reminds me of a countdown clock for the 21st century that was at the little Canton, NC post office when Buck and I lived in North Carolina. It hung on the wall and mesmerized us every time we walked in. We still talk about it from time to time and can't believe it's now almost 11 years later.

Buck will be 73 in December. Many of his old friends are either gone or seriously debilitated. He has good genes, too, and - like you - has taken and still takes great care of his physical body: lifts weights, walks the woods and the treadmill, tractors the fields and so much more. Nonetheless, I can see the inventory of days in his eyes. We talk about it sometimes, and we enjoy the full moon.

Ian @ Personal Development said...

The Buddha used this sort of tactic to help inspire people to do the work necessary to free themselves from suffering.

You calculations really put things into perspective.

Like you said this type of technique can inspire you to take some serious action.

Thanks Denny!

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I'm glad I'm so lousy and lazy with math, Denny. I don't want to know. Laugh.

Love to you and Kathleen,


Aaron Biebert said...

Denny, I felt the same way when I wrote a recent post about death. It's not a fun topic, but a very important one.

Thanks for all the great reading!