Column: Lessons learned during a long life
Through the years, we learn a great many lessons. Here are ten of the most significant ones I have acquired. Perhaps these will provoke you to pause and review those that have impacted your life.
To love someone deeply, and be loved in return, is perhaps the greatest of personal blessings.
Making choices and living with them is as critical to my quality of life as any other single factor. I have made some superior choices during the years and some I wish hadn't. I live with both kinds.
I believe that intelligence is no guarantee of wisdom, nor does sensitivity mean I will be more compassionate toward others. Intent, purpose and commitment must be factored into these equations. I do believe compassion is more critical to my development as a human being than intelligence.
One of the most valuable assets I possess is a sense of humor. Without it, I would not have won the heart of My Beloved, nor would I have weathered as well as I have the inevitable crises and downers that occurred during the past 84 years.
While I laugh less today than I did in earlier years, I am more sensitive to and appreciative of whimsy, irony, comedy and buffoonery which I observe in the human condition.
Attitude may not be the most important quality in my life, but it is close. I know that I see the world not as it is, but as I am.
My perceptions of reality determines my perspectives on life. My attitude is the root of my perceptions, and thus, my perspectives. The challenge is to keep my attitude as positive as possible and not be defeated by the increasing challenges of aging.
I must continue to work hard to find the good in the world, and I regret that I must continue to work hard to find the good in the world. Idealism is still my preferred attitudinal choice, but sustaining this complex perspective is an increasingly demanding challenge. I take heart in Dr. Hans Selye's statement: "Realistic people who pursue practical aims are rarely as realistic or practical, in the long run of life, as the dreamers who pursue their dreams."
What I do not know is infinitely greater than the little I do know. This realization is not only the true source of humility, but the reason I embrace the goal of being a life-long learner. In this regard, I have been indeed fortunate to live with a person who has the same goal.
The natural vulnerability of my childhood was followed by a determined attempt to wear, during adolescence and early adulthood, a mask of invulnerability.
After these years of immaturity, I was fortunate to learn - with the help of My Beloved and friends - that vulnerability means having the inner strength to acknowledge weaknesses, limitations, uncertainty and confusion.
Understanding that I am a flawed, imperfect human being was a necessary step to seeking the forgiveness of others.
Although a huge investment of time and commitment was necessary, I have been able to develop within myself a special place, which nourishes my spirit when the outer world seeks to disturb or torment me. My inner world is lively, comforting, supportive, astonishingly provocative, and is tuned frequently to the exploration of wonder and the nurture of curiosity. Even the re-runs in my internal picture show do not become boring.
It is critical for me to believe in what Marian Wright Edelman calls the Fellowship of Human Beings.
The principle of inclusion - not exclusion - of people different from me is critical to my attempt to become fully human. Healing and love are more sensible, humane and necessary conditions for the survival of our earthly family than divisiveness and hate.
Dr. Ron Barnes is a retired educator and businessman.