The Paradox of Life!

How many times have you heard the phrase “the good old days” referred to when you’re having conversations with family or friends, especially those who are living the second half century of their lives?  They always seem to be reminiscing that it’s not the same these days anymore, and start vividly recollecting the times when life was a lot less complex and simple pleasures freely abound.

For me, these “way-back-when” instances pop up often enough on Saturdays.  This is when I take time to wake up when it’s still dark to drive all the way to the golf club to play a round of golf with my dad, my two uncles, and his affable group of “retiree” friends.  In conversations over breakfast, other than intelligently discussing the putts they missed, the government, American politics, the stock market, and how many additional strokes they should be according each other the next time they meet, many a time these morning chats get placed on a time warp back to when music was played on vinyl records, when one cent could buy you a steaming hot bowl of noodles, and when communication was very personal and predominantly done face to face.

On one hand, the 21st century we now live in exudes the progress and technological advancements which we can be so proud of.  On the other, this “new” world suffers the ailments of an affluent society – undue stress, failed marriages, unhealthy diets, impersonal attitudes.

George Carlin, an American stand-up comedian, actor & author, refers to all this as “the paradox of our time in history”.  As you know, a paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

He goes on to describe that “we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.  We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.  We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.  We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.”

When I first read this, I sat down, pondered a long while, and thought to myself how profound George Carlin was.  Where juxtaposing the present with the past is not new nor rocket science, he certainly has a knack of presenting issues in such a well-weaved manner so as to induce in me a wake-up call.

George describes how we have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values, how we love too seldom but hate too often, how we write more but learn less, how we’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. 

But what really dug deep into me was when he wrote these poignant words – “We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.”

For me, “adding life to years” starts with regularly engaging the people whom I love so dearly.  There’s nothing more precious than spending time with loved ones, telling them how much you value and care for them; and making the effort to share with each, a word of encouragement or a warm embrace.    

As you will realize, death is no respecter of age, state of mind, or quality of health.  Don’t procrastinate – share your thoughts and feelings with the people closest to you.  If you are the sort that thinks that there is no rush and that you can do it sometime down the road, let me encourage you to think again.  For today is as good an opportunity as any to show forth your innermost sentiments.  As Nike rightfully puts it, “Just do it”!