27 September 2015

A modicum of middle-aged wisdom

This is a post that may be more for me than anyone else. As much as I’m not eager to get older, I’m now middle aged. Most of the time life seems too busy for much introspection, but I’ve been away from home for a week and have had a lot of time alone to ponder. Such breaks are welcome because I think that middle age is a critical time to make course corrections where needed. Life only seems to accelerate, and I’d rather not wake up in my later decades and regret that I did not live in a way that is courageously me. A few thoughts:

- Question everything. Questioning isn’t merely doubt. It is the foundation of all learning because it is the first step in the scientific process that leads to observation, experiment, and eventually, truth.

- Inner peace is tantamount to quality of life. I’m still working on the formula that leads to its outcome, but enticing alternatives like power, prestige, money, or relationship status seem to be inadequate substitutes for the genuine peace of being happy with oneself. 

- Relationships with others are one of the principal joys of life (and vital for most people) but it is even more important to enjoy your own company and thoughts. You live with yourself more than any other person.

- Human intimacy – whether in friendship, parent-child relationships, or romantic love – is a beautiful thing. With time it seems to become more elusive. I mean that in the sense of changing interactions in our contemporary society, and also in the context of chronological age. It seems harder to meet and connect deeply with others as I age. It also seems harder to meaningfully connect with others when many whom I care most about live far away, and so much communication happens via electrons.

- Individuals who significantly disappoint you once or twice are very likely to do so again. Its not that I don’t believe in the capacity for human beings to change, it’s just that most people do so only infrequently and slowly.

- One thing I’m trying to learn better is to stand up for myself. I’m usually soft-spoken, deferential, and introverted. But I value honesty and respect and feel genuinely hurt if those courtesies are not reciprocated. My character traits are sometimes fodder for being taken advantage of. The goal: being more assertive being a jerk.

- Nature is superior to virtually anything humans can create. As remarkable as our species is, we cannot beat 4.6 billion years of evolution. Most of modern society is a created beast, a mix of historical inertia and the good and bad of human intentions. It is a world of one species, but we share this planet with several million others. I think it is a gross error to spend so much time in the human world that the truths of biology and geology disappear from our collective conscience.