Monday, June 16, 2008

Consider Your Firsts

Whether you are able to assimilate all that is offered on this blog or not, I hope you remain open to the following. Up to a certain point in one’s life, and this point varies for everyone, most of your firsts are generally pleasant or memorable. In our childhood, we have many firsts- first bike, first trip to a baseball game, first time you get a 100 in school, a first sense of accomplishment. Many times, we carry these strong impressions with us for the rest of our lives and there is a reason for that. Then in our teens, we get a first job, a first car, we experience first love and eventually sex. Thankfully, we get to prove for the first time that we can handle growing responsibilities. Clearly, some less than favorable firsts can be interwoven with these formative years but for many Americans, an overall impression is left that, up to a certain age, our first experiences of one kind or another are positive. As we age, the nature of our firsts begins to change and usually not for the better. Over time, our firsts take the form of perhaps losing our first friend or parent to death. We go through a first divorce or have our first surgical procedure. We get our first glasses or have our first lapse of memory. These are natural milestones of aging though not welcome ones. Later in life, we have the possibilities of losing a spouse or child, of losing our job due to age, or being seriously restricted by health issues. So as time, measured as it can be in nanoseconds, marches on, I encourage you to take stock of your life to date and make some decisions about how your later years might play out. How much control do we have over the declining years of our lives? And again, for some, the declining years may be in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Is it all subject to fate or can we at least visualize a way to strive for dignity for our entire life? Of course, this question will touch off moral issues for many. But as with the previous entry, I encourage you to at least think about when might be the ideal time to die. Over the last few decades, psychologists have done many studies on the effects of hopelessness on the human body. The results frequently indicate that when a person has decided there is nothing left to live for, they actually do accelerate their own death. Occasionally, you will hear about a couple who had been together for many years and when one of them dies, the other soon naturally follows. These phenomena reinforce for me how strong the human will is and how devastating its absence can be. So even though you may not believe that choosing an ideal age to die has any effect, I continue to hope that it does.

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