“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas
A look at how some people have lived and died gives us a clue about what this life is all about. Many of them did rage at the ‘dying of the light.’
What interests me is how much they compromised and were their expectations ever lowered?
Maybe people become unhappy because they do expect too much… from themselves, and from others, and from life in general. Who sets the standards? Society? Family? The media? Celebrities?
A look at some people and how they died may give us some insight…
John Jacob Astor, a very rich man, spent his life, not in the family business but, tinkering with mechanical devices and writing fiction. When he divorced his wife of eighteen years and at age forty-seven married an eighteen year old he was open to severe criticism. To escape, he took her on a long voyage… on the Titanic.
As a famous and chivalrous man he had an opportunity to go into a life boat; instead he sent his pregnant wife and he went down with the ship!
Cleopatra… need I say more?
President Warren Harding had led a full life and at his death there was much scandal surrounding him. He was involved in a problem with the Veterans Bureau and his people selling illegal government supplies, the Teapot Dome where his men sold oil leases for bribes, and he served liquor in the White House during Prohibition.
Another big story was a woman who claimed to be the mother of his illegitimate child. She said her affair lasted well into his years in the White House. His wife refused an autopsy so no one ever knew what killed him and many rumors abounded including one that said she poisoned him! After his death there were letters found to a second mistress.
Nelson Rockefeller led an interesting number of years that included two marriages. When he died a twenty-five year old woman was found with him dressed in a robe. There was food and wine on a table and in his will he forgave a forty-five thousand dollar loan he had made to her to buy an apartment. How nice!
Catherine the Great led a most fulfilling life. She had her husband murdered and proceeded to have flings with many, many men. When she died the sixty-seven year old ruler had earlier dismissed her twenty-seven year old lover and collapsed. From age sixty she had no teeth and such varicose veins that she was in a wheel chair. Her former beauty was gone.
Interestingly, her only child, Paul, who was never close to her, bitter about his father’s death, had her buried next to him; the man she slept with the least!
So, what do you expect out of this life? Take a look because as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” That doesn’t mean you need to ask how you feel about every little thing or analyze all details in your life BUT it does mean it’s a good idea to sometimes take a look and step back. When things are not going the way you want is usually a good time but even better is to do so occasionally just to see where you are going and what your goals are. Emotionally we have a hard time and it is not easy to be objective about ourselves… that’s why we have therapists. It can be helpful, if you cannot do it alone. Often our friends or family, especially children, cause us to reflect and really look inside ourselves, not just in the mirror. Each decade also causes changes. The movie, “This is Forty” is a good peek at what I’m talking about here.
Anyway, today we want everything fast, and trade sensation for emotion all too often.
I don’t suggest lowering expectations; I suggest taking a realistic look and tailoring them to obtain what you need. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.”- Cogito ergo sum.
What I really like is, “The secret of life is in opening up your heart.” From that wonderful philosopher, Chita Rivera!!