Being Mortal

I recently finished reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and found it quite interesting. The book’s main theme was how we deal with our own dying.  He thinks that most of us never think about our death until we feel it is about 10 years away.  I often joked that I thought “being old” was always ten years older than I was.  George Burns, who lived to the ripe old age of 100, said that he never bought bananas that were not ripe, nor ordered a 3-minute boiled egg.  

Mr. Gawande says our goal should be to have a good life and not worry about death.  He believes that life is a series of peaks and valleys and studies have shown that we remember only the peaks and whatever happens at the end.  The valleys? Not so much!  He talks about watching a football game (60 minutes) and your team dominates up until the last three minutes and then they lose the game.  Their fans leave the stadium disgusted, even though for 57 of those minutes their team dominated, and they were extremely happy.  They only remembered the last 3 minutes.  He goes on to say that life is not the average of our life experiences but the feelings of our experiences.  As we all know, story endings matter and we always want a happy ending.  We want our pain to be brief and our pleasure long lasting.  He believes that we have two parts within us:  The “Remembering Self” and the “Experiencing Self”.  the “Remembering Self” recalls the peaks and some valleys while the “Experiencing Self” is totally involved in the moment. 

As we grow older, I believe we become more of the “Remembering Self” and less of the “Experiencing Self”.  I find myself in that mode a lot at my age, and I am completely unaware when it started.  I realize it takes a lot of courage to stare down the muzzle of a gun, and it takes an equal amount of courage to face your eventual demise.  Courage is showing strength and resolve, knowing you are in imminent danger.   

Socrates said, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

About 24 million children in America, or 1 out of every 3, live in homes without a father.  That is disturbing.  As a young boy growing up in the “40’s & 50s, every family I knew had both parents.  Of course, there were a lot fewer people and the divorce rate was very small. 

I ran across the following article in a email I received from the “Morning Brew”:

                                 Earth’s Population

  • 50,000 B.C.E (before the common era for non-Christians): 2
  • 8,000 B.C.E., the dawn of agriculture: 5 million 
  • 1 C.E (common era).: 300 million
  • 1850: 1.3 billion
  • Today: 7.7 billion
  • 2050: 9.7 billion projected

Bottom line: More than 108 billion people have ever been born on this planet. The number of people alive right now represents roughly 7% of the total number of humans who have ever lived.

As we see, there are currently 7.7 billion of us and a lot has changed since those two people walked around at the beginning.  A lot of it was good and some of it not-so-much.  Especially, as it pertains to families.  A simple Google search reveals that in the USA at least 50% of families get divorced.  That is a staggering number!  Of course, I stand firmly in that statistic, having divorced after 32 years of marriage.  Fortunately, our two children were adults, but that still doesn’t eliminate the damage a divorce does to everyone involved.  Mom & Dad being together seems to be the glue that holds the universe together, and when their relationship crashes and burns, their children are left with a big hole in their heart that seems to never close.  I think that is true no matter their age. 

So, how can we improve that situation?  I believe that the reason marriages lasted longer 75 years ago is that more people belonged to a religion.  They concentrated more on obeying the laws of their religion and, as we all know, most religions specify fidelity in a marriage.  I do believe that if I had been more religious, I would have tried harder to make my marriage work. 

I also believe religion requires you to treat your spouse with kindness and respect, something that is missing in a lot of relationships.  Do I think that being religious would drop the 50% divorce rate to 25% or less?  It worked back then and there is no reason it cannot happen now.

When it comes to your children, parents mostly feel as Elizabeth Stone does: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,”.  

Therein lies the reason to make your marriage work.

I was watching the Chernobyl mini-series on HBO last week and was moved by it.  At the end someone said, “Every time you lie you incur a debt to the truth and sooner or later that debt has to be paid”.  I gave that some thought, and I completely agree with that idea.  It’s a perspective that we should adopt and instill in our children.  We were all raised to understand that lying was wrong, and we know that if we lie in court, we can be incarcerated, but we never assumed that lies accumulated and at some time in the future we had to suffer in some way for those lies.  We can all find situations where a “little white lie” seems to be necessary.  It may be that we do it to spare hurting someone’s feelings, or, we do it because we were asked a question that we did not want to answer truthfully and felt it necessary to tell a falsehood.  There are times when we “stretch” the truth in order to make the situation seem better than it was.  My ex-wife used to say that, “to deceive is worse than lying” whenever she detected that I wasn’t being completely honest with her.  My reasoning was that she couldn’t handle the truth and would become very upset.  Our two children always avoided telling her bad new because of her inability to handle it.  Maybe, we should have been truthful and accepted the consequences but all three of us chose to avoid that at all costs.  I think at some point, deceiving (lying) takes its toll on you and starts to chip away at your self-respect.  After we divorced, I vowed to never again be caught in that situation and my life has been much happier.  I also think God is much happier with me 😊.

Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind… Austin O’Malley

I hope that wherever you are on this wonderful planet of ours that you are loved by your friends and family as much as I am loved by mine.  May you always be treated with kindness and respond with humility…..Tommy

Comment List

  • Tommy July 30, 2019

    Another great article TJ.

  • Tommy July 31, 2019

    Tommy, a few years ago I had a fatal heart attack. I was gone until God sent relief by a young Chinese Cardiologist and administered
    N.G. straight into the main artery of my heart which was completely clogged. I had often wondered why God saved me, but a few days later I received an email from a young lady that I had been having Bible study with her and her husband. She told me, “If you have ever wondered why God brought you back, it was for me!” I stopped wondering then! Keep writing!

  • Tommy July 31, 2019

    Thanks Dale

  • Tommy July 31, 2019

    Frank, we never know what God has in store for us. I have wondered why I outlived my precious son.

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