A couple of weeks ago I acknowledged my fiftieth birthday. Of course, even though it was acknowledged as something significant, I was merely one day older than I had been the previous day. Such is the way with all birthdays. We annually celebrate the day we showed up, and folks buy you stuff and send you cards and tell you, ‘Thanks for still being here’.
My personal beliefs go a great deal further than the current body I inhabit.
I am of the unshakeable view that Man is not a body. Man does not have a soul or a spirit. He is one.
I think that Man – as a spiritual identity – has been around for a very long time.
Tying in with age-old Buddhist beliefs, Man occupies a body as a driver occupies a car. The body is a vehicle for the spirit, and nothing more.
The intelligence, wit, ideas, thoughts, creativity, personality, likes and dislikes of the individual are the individual themselves. They are him or her. They are the spirit. They are not the body or the brain.
Some ‘mental’ studies have gone off the rails due to the fact that ‘mental’, ‘emotional’ and ‘spiritual’ traumas have been afforded a physical cause (from the brain), thus efforts to operate or shock or drug someone ‘better’ have been undertaken. They are addressing the wrong source of the problem. I am of the view that the brain does not think or create or decide or remember anything. When the body dies the brain dies, but the person is still there.
So, you are born, at least physically. I think that you – as a spirit – have come from somewhere. I think that you bring a great deal of information and baggage with you. I think you have lived earlier lives, and have possessed earlier identities. Sometimes, rarely, little bits of those earlier lives are left intact, hence children can remember things for which we really have no explanation. We tell them it’s imagination, but it isn’t. I think it’s actually very hurtful for a child to be told that he is imagining things that he or she can actually remember. It’s the same to be told you’re a liar when you’re not. Even in adulthood, some of those memories reappear – unexpectedly, inadvertently – and we call them déjà vu or intuition or perception. Sometimes we just know things and we have absolutely no explanation for why we know them. Sometimes we experience love at first sight or an instant dislike, and these things – I believe – cannot be explained in purely physical terms.
Anyway, I digress. I am just putting the significance of a fiftieth birthday in perspective. I hear people say, ‘Enjoy yourself…you only live once’, and I kind of agree. You only live once, sure…it just happens to go on forever. Your physical age and the limitations you place upon yourself have more to do with what other people think you’re capable of, rather than your own self-belief.
I am assured that this is true by the sheer number of comments I have received from others regarding how they think I should be behaving now that I am ‘middle-aged’.
You’ll be taking it a little easier now, won’t you? is akin to being told, So, don’t you think it’s about time you prepared yourself for an early death?
I am fifty. So what?
I am reminded of the Hunter S. Thompson quote, ‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn-out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’ and I concur.
It has been said that banality and conformity are the suburbs of Hell. I concur on that point, too.
My brother and I speak frequently. We are entirely different characters. He is content to live the life that he is living. He is happy to work, to read, to enjoy a glass of wine and a good dinner. As far as I can observe, he is very easily pleased. Perhaps too easily pleased. He does not feel any sense of urgency to break down the gates and storm the palace. He does not feel some sense of inherent frustration that life moves far, far too slowly. Conversations with him make me wonder whether my desire to do all I can and do it now and at twice the speed is more a curse than a blessing.
I have just published a book in the UK. I am releasing two books in France this year, another in Holland, others in numerous and varied countries around the world. I am also seeing the release of a graphic novel based on a trilogy of short stories I wrote a while back. We have a couple of film adaptations in the pipeline, the band is going on the road, I am writing a second album, and I am preparing myself for some extensive and exhaustive European tours to promote both the books and the music. I have undertaken evening classes in two different subjects, and am trying to keep my guitar studies at two hours per day. I am writing a new book for 2016 at a rate of fifteen thousand words a week, and I am asking myself,
‘What else can I do?’
This is my nature. This is who I am.
Krishnamurti said, ‘A life of comparison is a life of misery’. That is also a curse of mine. I see things happening elsewhere and I want to be part of them. I see levels of accomplishment that exceed my own by a great deal, and I get angry with myself for not having worked harder.
People ask me, ‘Aren’t you going to take some time off?’ and they know that the answer is inherent in the question. I don’t have time to take any time off. Time off to do what? Sunbathe?
I don’t do holidays. Don’t much care for them. I don’t need time to wind down. I don’t get wound up. Yes, I get frustrated and dismayed by the seeming lethargy of others. I am staggered at the sheer amount of environmental inertia I have to overcome in order to get anything done on this ridiculous planet, but I don’t think those things cause me sufficient stress to warrant doing anything other than soldiering on.
I saw a wonderful tee-shirt slogan yesterday. It simply stated, ‘I can hardly contain my apathy’. Joke aside, it made me laugh because I have run into that with other people time and again over the past few weeks.
However, I do my utmost to stay calm, to keep things in perspective, and to appreciate that others – just like my brother – have different attitudes, and thus different goals.
And so, in reaching fifty, I consider that I have been around long enough to get things more right than wrong. I have made a good bunch of mistakes and learned some lessons, and when I repeat those mistakes it’s simply because I have not learned well enough.
I think growing older merely gives you a perspective on priorities. We can all remember the exams and tests we took in school, how important they were, how much they mattered. We can all remember past relationships where the emotions you felt seemed to be the most powerful and overwhelming things you could ever experience. We can all remember moments of outrage, anger, even hatred toward someone or something that seemed all-consuming. We don’t feel those same emotions now. Not because they weren’t valid emotions at the time, but because the significance of those experiences has now been evaluated and prioritized against the greater picture.
I have reached a point where I feel that there is some vague picture behind me. That picture is borne out of fifty years of thinking and feeling, of doing and not doing, of making mistakes, learning lessons, reading, writing, living life. I have reached a point where the fifty years behind me seems nothing more than a wealth of experience upon which to base my actions for the next twenty or thirty or forty years, and I intend to use everything I have learned to accomplish more in every future year than has been accomplished in any five or ten years of the past.
Maybe I am over-optimistic, but what’s wrong with that?
However, I think the one thing I have to learn more than anything else – and perhaps it may be the most necessary lesson of all – is that everyone is different, and they each have their own individual viewpoints about what is and is not important. Expecting others to think the way you yourself do is not only injurious to others, it’s also injurious to yourself. You start resenting people, disliking them even, and then you discover that you are on your own. Society is a social thing, and we all belong to a society whether we wish to or not.
In this light, perhaps the one lesson I have learned more than all others concerns the importance of people. Life is people. If you don’t have time for people, then you don’t have time for life. Maybe the real motivation for any life should be to positively affect the lives of as many other people as you can before you die.
I am not afraid of dying. Afraid is too strong a word, but I do think about time and how much is left and what I can get done before I have to start over with a new name and a new body. That will be a different game, more than likely with a different purpose and motivation, and that – in itself – is something intriguing.
The enemy of life is not death. Death is merely a deadline you can’t avoid, no matter when it happens.
Maybe the Supreme Being, whoever or whatever that may be, is nothing more than an editor.
You’ve written enough. That story is complete. Time to start a new one.
Maybe the real challenge is writing a life that inspires, motivates and challenges others.
Maybe the real challenge is writing a life that matters, not only while you’re here, but in the legacy you leave behind.
British novelist and musician Roger Ellory may be fifty, but he is young of spirit. Find his books at http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO