Today, after taking a leisurely walk for my daily physical and mental health and adding to my step count, I decided to write about my mantra, “live free and be happy.” While walking, I was listening to some soothing music emanating from the ear buds, plugged into my smartphone (my 21st Century multi-tasking device). This music was streaming from the Internet on Pandora through my wireless phone and data service. It was all conducive for my mind to wander to my life and my mantra.
How miraculous this life is. I was born 12 days before Franklin Delano Roosevelt died, a few months before Harry Truman gave the command to drop two atomic bombs on Japan and change the world in ways no one could imagine. Like everyone, my life has been a journey. A journey I could not have dreamt in my wildest dreams. I'm walking down the street in a small rural town, next to a flowing river that goes all the way through and past our nation's capital more than a hundred miles away. I'm connected to the entire world with a palm-sized device many times more powerful than the computing systems that took men to the moon and brought them safely back to Earth.
For those of you in your third half of life, like me, the wonders we've seen and experienced would be hard to enumerate. For those who lived before us, the same was true, except it has all accelerated. And for those currently in their first and second halves of life, you guys ain't seen nothing, yet. I can't begin to guess what this country and world will be like in 2045, my 100th birthday. And since the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. is the centenarians, there is a nominal possibility, I might see that birthday.
That being said, this morning I shared a picture on my Facebook page (another of the miracles of Internet magic) that depicted two groups of children. It's a “then and now” scenario. Here's that impression. I believe most of the people reacting to this on my Facebook page recall the days depicted by the group on the left.
I know from many I have had conversations with that some of these incidents were negative and possibly painful. Some like mine were positive and met with support from everyone (except for a few neighbors who thought I was interfering with their TV sets – until I proved it wasn't me). Life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs, elation and pain. This is how we develop character, belief systems and values. And regarding those two groups of children, I definitely relate to the group on the left, but if I could go back in time, I'd at least want to take my smartphone and wireless technology with me.
So, I'm going to break down my mantra “live” “free” and “be” “happy” into those four key ideas and why I've adopted them as my mantra and philosophy of life. This will be in two parts. Here is the first installment.
Live is the verb derivation of the noun Life. Life is a miraculous gift we are each given the moment a human sperm and egg join and encode what will become a human being after nine months of gestation. I am not going to get into a debate as to when life begins. You may each have your own definition. I respect that. I'm considering Life as beginning the moment we are no longer in our mother's womb and the umbilical cord that connected us to her is cut. That is the moment each human being begins existing as an independent, self-sustaining, living, breathing being.
To Live, the verb, is the action of actually executing the potential of the Life miracle we are going to begin experiencing the moment that umbilical is cut and tied off. Of course, we are only one of millions of life forms that experience this process in one form or another, from the tiniest amoeba to the most complex form we call the human being.
Beginning with that first breath of air, the first sound we emanate, the first movement we make, an unknowable journey begins to unfold. It is our destiny to live. How that journey takes form is based on an incredible number of variables. The genetic encoding of who we will grow to be, what we'll look like, how smart we'll be, what gifts or talents we may possess, how strong we'll be, how healthy we'll be and so much more begin coming into play as we begin to live independently when that umbilical cord is cut.
Then there are the external elements. These include who are (or will become, if we are adopted) our parents. Where they live including the continent, country, city, town or rural village and form of governmental authority. Their intelligence, their financial status, the rest of the extended family, their occupational background, their religious beliefs and so much more. The people you'll encounter during the formative years such as friends, religious leaders, teachers, employers, authority figures, etc. are more contributors. Life and living it is a very complex process.
The ultimate goal in life should be to live it to the fullest. You can define that how you best see fit. Some will be fortunate to discover a meaning and passion for their life at an early age. Most, from my observation of humanity, will be conditioned and educated into society to be and do what the majority will do. They will live out their lives this way. Some others, again, from my observation, and a much smaller minority, will discover a “gift,” a “talent,” or something they are very good at and can excel at, becomes their passion and where they focus their life. It may be in art, music, invention, athletics, healing, helping other people and so many other possible pursuits. They will live for this. It won't be about how much money they may make or how fancy the car they drive or big the house they live in or famous they may become. It will be to live their passion.
Unfortunately, again, from my opinion and observation, the majority will sit in the bleachers or at home in front of a large screen TV watching someone else live out their dream and passion. How many of those watchers have the talents, the skills and the abilities to do what they are watching, yet have chosen to conform to being a watcher instead of a doer. This applies to all facets of life and society. This is not a condemnation or judgment. This is simply how life is. No matter how we choose to live, it is a choice and we've made that choice. There are all kinds of excuses and we've all used lots of them, I'm no different. But, to live the life you really want and can be passionate about is a choice. Each of us is exactly where we have chosen to be.
In my way of thinking, being “Free” is a natural right each human is born with. When we are born and the umbilical cord is cut our brain is a blank slate except for the genetic coding planted there by the combination of the egg and sperm. There is certain involuntary encoding in the brain including our senses, breathing, eating, digesting, our heart pumping blood and all other basic bodily functions. These involuntary functions allow us to live and sustain life. They also allow us to learn and be conditioned.
Conditioning is very often learned by repetition by the person or people helping us to become a completely self-sustaining human being. We learn hot things and fire can burn us. We learn certain things can cut and wound us. We learn to protect ourselves from falling or being hit. We learn to eat, when to sleep and other self-preservation skills.
Learning is the process by which we learn to communicate, obtain nourishment, gain skills to enable us to become more and more self-reliant and independent. We learn to discern what is right and wrong. We learn moral codes and boundaries in acceptable human behavior. We learn responsibility and accountability for our actions and the consequences of infringing upon or depriving others of their freedom and rights. We learn to develop character and values. We learn to cohabit a home, a community and a society. We learn coping skills. We learn toleration for others you may not agree with. You are basically “free” to be and do most anything you desire, again, by personal choices, as long as it does not infringe upon or deprive another of their freedom, rights and property.
To be free is not without cost. That cost is learning, exercising good judgment and making good choices for your life. The more people living in a given society and geographic area, the more limited personal freedom will be. While living in less densely populated situations may allow one to exercise more personal freedom.
Thus, “living free,” by my definition means exercising the right to live one's life as freely as possible with the least amount of restrictions, laws, rules, limitations, codes, ordinances, covenants and other forms of interference or impact from governmental or other authority entities or figures.
It's important to realize and accept there is no way to actually live 100% free in this world. Even if you go to the middle of a huge desert or wilderness or mountaintop or island, someone or some entity can find you, if they want to, and potentially impose their will on you. The best we can hope for is that we find a way to live whatever life and lifestyle we choose with the least interference and impact. Once, again, you have choices.
In the next installment we'll pick up with “Be.” Until then, live free and be happy. EH