Saturday, June 4, 2016

Worst of Times – Best of Times

Audio Version available - see player below

Six words by Charles Dickens from his classic A Tale of Two Cities. I quoted the entire passage in my last article. The words are as apropos today as when he wrote them.

As a proponent of a philosophy of living, a personally free lifestyle encompassing a minimalist mindset and economical financial budgeting, I have to embrace these six words. Truly, there are many issues in our country and world that can be described as the “worst of times.” However, on the flip side of the coin, there are so many positive changes and advances in technology (in all fields of science and industry) that have occurred during my lifetime. My lifetime beginning at the end of World War II. The indicators are that we live in the best of times.

Some of us, of the older Baby Boomer generation, often reflect on how they liked the good old days better when everything was simpler and, perhaps more civil. To be clear, I'm a member of the Boomer generation by association, since I was born the year before the officially recognized Baby Boomer generation began in 1946.

Of course, for every generation there is a good old days. And, certainly for some who experienced the worst of the Great Depression era, World War I, World War II and the Civil War, those good old days may not have been that good.

Listen to the Audio Version: 

And , for sure, the hundreds of years of slavery in the U.S. were not the good old days for those enslaved. When we think of slavery, we mainly think about the people sold into slavery from their home countries on the African continent and brought to this continent involuntarily. But, there were also people of other races, colors and nationalities who came to this continent and country as indentured slaves or were treated not much better than the African slaves.

We also can't forget the native people of this continent, who for the most part, lost their country, their territory, much of their culture and even much of their identity.

For a lot of people, the days described as the good old days, may better be described as the “bad old days.” By the way, I (and my nomadic lifestyle) was recently mentioned in KMWorld, an online magazine. You can read the article at this link Workforce of the future update

The Worst of Times

Any time can be the worst of times for anyone. We've all heard it before, “life isn't fair.” Everyone is going to experience some periods of times during their life that can be described as negative, bad, down, depressing and unfair. The worst of times don't discriminate. Life is unfair to everyone in various ways regardless of their status, wealth, lack thereof or position in life. Of course, someone born into poverty and a ghetto lifestyle will define the unfair and negative life scenarios differently than someone born into a middle class or affluent lifestyle. It's all a matter of one's personal situation and perspective.

I would further suggest that a lot has to do with attitude. People with negative or bad attitudes will perceive everything that happens to them as being unfair and they are disadvantaged. While, at the same time, there are plenty of stories of people who came from these same humble and disadvantaged beginnings in life, who have achieved greatness, as well as affluence, in many instances.

There are many examples I could cite. I'm going cite just one. A highly respected and beloved man died yesterday at the age of 74. Mohammad Ali, the internationally known and revered boxer, left this world yesterday and left behind a legacy few could refute. As Ali would proclaim throughout his lifetime, “I am the greatest.”

He was a man of humble beginnings and the descendant of pre-civil war slaves. His parents were hard working people in Louisville, Kentucky. Born Cassius Clay, he had every opportunity as a young black man in a still segregated country to go down the wrong path, but he didn't.

Taken under the wing of a white police officer and boxing coach in Louisville, young Cassius CHOSE the high road. He accumulated many awards as an amateur boxer including an Olympic Gold Medal. After becoming a professional boxer, he chose to convert from his Baptist upbringing to become a member of the Nation of Islam. He is the only boxer to ever hold the undisputed title of Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World three times.

His life was not without controversy. Many people still hold it against him for his refusal to be drafted into the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. He stated he objected for religious reasons. His decision resulted in him being stripped of his world championship. He refused to stay down and defeated. His positive influence has been felt around the world. More people around the world recognize the name Mohammad Ali than recognize the names of very popular and notable presidents of the U.S.

When he became afflicted with Parkinson's Disease he had to hang up his boxing gloves. However, he didn't throw in the towel. He now had a new challenge and he became a major vocal advocate for those dealing with this debilitating disease.

Many people know I am not a fan or supporter of sports involving the use of physical strength and prowess to injure or use any kind of aggressive, violent action against another person. Boxing is at the top of the list. However, Mohammad Ali was the real deal. He found something he was good at and he became “The Greatest” at it. I could fill the rest of this article with quotes by this “winner.” But, here are just a few to exemplify his philosophies and commitment to excellence.

The man who has no imagination has no wings.

It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wears you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.

I'm no leader; I'm a little humble follower.

To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want.

Is it any wonder this draft objector and world champion, among all his honors, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush?

Ali had some periods that were the worst of times during his life and career. Life wasn't always fair to him. Some of his days could be described as bad old days. But, as you can tell from this brief story and the few quotations I shared, this was a man who chose to live with a positive attitude and expectation from his life and those he was in contact with.

So, the worst of times, YOUR worst of times don't have to be. They can simply be the stepping stones to your best of times. As Mohammad Ali said, you are free to be what you want.

The Best of Times

Don't we all love it when we are living through the best of times? Everything is going exactly as we want it to go. Life is good. We're happy. Our family is happy. We are respected and appreciated by friends, families, employers, employees, vendors and customers/clients. You're flying high.

Okay! Come down off your cloud. That's seldom, if ever, how life really is. I don't care if your name is Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Besos on the one hand or Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi or any number of other people on the other end of the spectrum and especially you, whoever you are.

The best of times is defined by you and whatever you want for your life. It is my opinion that people basically seek two things in life. The first is as much personal freedom to be and do whatever it is they want to be and do. It requires steadily progressing toward that goal, despite the obstacles and setbacks encountered. The second is happiness and that will ultimately be achieved while freely pursuing the personal freedom goals.

Personal freedom is, like time and life itself, a priceless commodity. Each individual has to define what personal freedom is in their own mind and heart. Each will choose their own path. Some of us may tend to judge another person's life and direction by our own definitions. This is futile. No one can change anyone else's thoughts, dreams or desires. People may be controlled through the use of intimidation and fear. People may conform to societal conditioning and the expectations of others. But, that doesn't mean they have necessarily changed their definition of personal freedom.

Consider the extremes of being a convict or a prisoner of war. I dare say neither of those conditions would be the definition of personal freedom for anyone finding themselves in such a scenario. However, individuals can and do change who they are through the influence and inspiration of others.

The best of times could be interpreted by seeing someone involved in a successful criminal enterprise. One might define freedom by having expensive cars, clothes, living extravagantly, etc., at other people's expense through negative behavior and ill-gotten gains. There may be short spurts of happiness. Ultimately, however, this will not result in long term freedom and happiness. It might also result in a considerably shortened lifespan, as well.

On the other hand, you may choose to strive for as much personal freedom, as you define it, through positive thoughts, actions and lifestyle. This, then, can be an example of the kind of freedom you've achieved and will display the happiness resulting from your living free lifestyle. You will then be a positive influence and inspiration to others.

Reread Ali's quotes above and see how they apply to yourself, your definitions of freedom and happiness and your personal mission statement or philosophy of life.

If people say they envy you, your freedom, your lifestyle and how you always seem to be happy, then you are a positive influence in life and on other people. You are a beacon of personal freedom and happiness. Most people will not follow through and change their lives. That goes back to what Ali said about imagination and wings and, also risks and accomplishments. Neither Mother Teresa nor Mahatma Gandhi lived lives that personified financial or material wealth, yet they influenced millions and made a great impact on the world around them without desire for great accolades. They simply and freely pursued their goals, resulting in personal happiness at some level.

Beacon or Baggage

We have a choice in life. We can become a beacon to others. We can show them a way that may be better than the way they are currently pursuing. Or, we can be baggage. By that I mean, instead of showing others a positive way toward realizing more personal freedom, we allow everything that weighs us down to spill over to them. We become the kind of people they'd prefer to avoid.

Where do you fit in? Are you a beacon showing others, through the example of how you live that inspires, encourages, uplifts and results in them admiring and wishing to find ways to emulate your life and lifestyle? Are people drawn to you? Do people want to follow your life and adventures? Do they want to seek ways to cross paths with you, meet up, share time together? I can tell you, if this is who you are, you are a beacon to the world.

As I write this article I'm parked in an RV park with a very negative, unhappy influence here. This person is the kind who makes flowers wilt when the person passes by them. But, I'm not here for that person. I'm spending time with a fellow road warrior. We are both positive, free and happy individuals. We freely share ideas. We commiserate over challenges we each have to deal with in our individual lifestyles of freedom.

Yesterday, we had breakfast with two other people, who went out of their way to stop in this little town in New Mexico, to share some time with us. We talked and shared and laughed. Then they continued on their way to their final destination. My other friend and I came back to the RV park, took care of our own business and then enjoyed a pizza at the local pizza place (and unknowingly closed it while having some great conversation).

I also received a call from another nomadic friend traveling across the country. He's been a long time blog follower and keeps up with me. I'm hoping we have an opportunity to cross paths on our travels, too. There are numerous others I'll meet up with along the road.

If you're baggage, you may find people tend to have reasons and excuses for not meeting up. They may actually go out of their way to avoid any personal encounters. Instead of inspiring and uplifting them, you slow them down or, worse yet, lower their attitudes. I do my best to avoid people like this. Actually people dragging baggage often are seeking to unload their baggage on you or anyone else they can to hopefully lighten their burden, their worst of times. Everyone has some of those times and needs to vent once in a while. But, if you become known for your baggage and not for being a beacon, you'll find less and less people willing to sit you out.

Are you “The Greatest” in your life? Do people seek you out? Do people admire you and are they inspired by your example? I hope so. Living free and being happy in your life is contagious. You may only change one life or so, but that is the positive influence I'm talking about and you're helping people see the best of times.

Live free and be happy. EH

1 comment:

Richard Rosen said...

Well thought out post Ed.

It is innate to seek to better yourself, your exterior living conditions, and the interior state for those mindful of its worth. While some are envious of those who have wealth and apparently the easy life, it's good to be aware that without challenge, hardship, and difficulty there can be no soul growth. For it comes about by moral decisions that arise from the challenges of life.

It makes me chuckle hearing the burdened humanity of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof seek relief from the plan when he says to God, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?”