LET me start this story by sharing an inscription written on a tomb in the crypts of Westminster Abbey in London, England.
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But, it too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
Those of us in our twilight years can readily grasp the message of that inscription, never mind if it sounds rather tragic. The wisdom it brings, we must not hesitate to share and teach to our sons and daughters, the world needs them more than ever. The sooner they learn and validate it early on by reading and/or by experience, the better. It should make living easier, fun, and amazing for them, I hope.
Every day, in our relationships, communities, and workplaces, we look at people beside us and demand or ask that they behave or act according to our wishes, desires, and expectations of them. We may grant that is normal. But what we expect from others, do we expect the same from ourselves.
While processing the inscription above, Rudyard Kipling’s poem, entitled “If” was coming back to mind. For the youth among us, the poem lists a series of abilities, habits, and virtues, that each man or woman must possess to attain nobility and some measure of character.
The message of the poem cautions against human shortcomings like greed and egotism. It advises grace and calm in the face of pressure. It urges productivity in life and not putting yourself above or below anyone else. It places before the reader a path of constant vigilance to the pursuit of virtue and the achievement of manhood (character).
Almost like the inscription on the tomb, Kipling’s message is clear even if he did not express it in his poem. To change the world, to be of influence to others, start with yourself.
He suggests that is best done, while you are young so that at old age you would not try to justify your existence digesting your failures in life as lessons in defeat.
I think Robert Frost, in a poem that you may remember from grade school, knows why that is so. He wrote ... “So dawn goes down today. Nothing gold can stay.”
Our lives like time flowing past us like a river. Everything fades fast and gone. It is foolish to feel important, indignant, or distressed as if we can “live forever young,” and the things that irritate us will last a lifetime. What matters is rather philosophical.
It would be nice if we could change the world around us to our liking, but would people appreciate or like what we wanted to be done. The best way to teach others about our good ideas and ways is to demonstrate it with our own lives.
We do not have the luxury of time to do this, and the results may not be perfect. I know that too but I take comfort in the fact that by pursuing this tact, I personally encounter and experience ideas, knowledge, and wisdom about phenomena, and the issues and concerns of life. Unless we have knowledge of pain, how do we understand comfort? Just as there is no cold without hot, there is no light without darkness. And our dreams to live “forever young” or die quickly, find illumination, beauty, and justice with the reality that all will inevitably pass, save but the inscriptions on our tombs or in the memories of our families and friends.
Human existence is a long drawn out lessons in defeat. And that is wonderful?