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Monday, March 31, 2008

So today's my birthday...

How old am I? Heh-heh, well, I'm not quite halfway to 70. Not yet anyway.

But it's funny: in the past two weeks I have been mistaken for a college kid twice and a high school student once! Lord only knows how much longer that will last.

I wrote here last year about why I don't like having a birthday, and it has nothing to do with "getting older" at all. That's still something that time hasn't fully shaken off of me. For some people, birthdays are already a reminder of one's mortality and to have one like that is harsh enough to rock you for a lifetime. So I still don't care very much for birthdays.

But as Lisa told me this morning: "It beats the alternative, doesn’t it?"

Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad :-) Gotta love having a wife like that.

Lots of people my age and even much younger – I know of a few who had this happen to them in their teens - already start to feel what some people call "middle-age crisis". That's something that I never understood, and as I've gotten older I still don't understand it. I guess it has to do with how I grew up.

Yeah, I had people my own age to associate with. But I was also very blessed to have considerably older people in my life too. And not once did I think of them as "old" or "middle-age" or even my contemporaries as "young". I still don't. They were and are just "people".

Just as I've honestly never understood the whole thing about race or differences of religion. I grew up surrounded by white people, black people, people of various other stripes and creeds. Focusing on "the young" or "the whites" or "the Methodists" was something that never became instilled in me. We were all just one big bright and wonderful tapestry, and I was going to have to find out on my own where I belonged in that. More than thirty years on I'm still trying to find out, but I digress...

And even the ones that were chronologically more mature than I was, they were never bothered by age at all. These were people who had done remarkable things with their lives and were still doing remarkable things. I'll never forget the day that "Mr. Henry" as we called him, 70-some years old, taught me the art of dowsing. That's the arcane technique of detecting subterranean water sources while walking around on the ground above. I was eight years old at the time. There we were out in a field with his dowsing rods and some branches that he had found that were suitable for the purpose. In today's worldview we would be termed "a pre-adolescent and an elderly man" together, but I never saw it that way and I don't think Mr. Henry did either. The difference in our ages didn't matter to us. I never saw it figuring into anything then and I still don't see age difference figuring into anything today. Later that afternoon I started teaching my Dad what Mr. Henry had taught me. And it didn't occur to me until years later that it must have looked strange for someone as small as I was to be demonstrating dowsing to his father.

Ya see how much more fun life can be when you don't worry about things you can't control?

And don't give me that crap about "being too old" to enjoy some things, either. One of my friends has a boyfriend and both of them, and his parents all play World of Warcraft together. Aside from the two lovebirds, everyone else is 50 or more. That doesn't stop them from going around slaying orcs, or whatever they do in World of Warcraft.

And hey, one of the gnarliest Myspace pages that I've ever seen belongs to my 72-year old aunt. She designed it herself. Her page looks better than mine! She's cool as all get out :-)

"Ageism", "fear of aging" and everything that comes with it, there's no doubt that it comes from our culture. But ever wonder about why that is? It occurred to me a few months ago: American society has become too engineered toward allocating resources for material comfort rather than unleashing personal liberty.

That was without a doubt the worst thing that resulted from Social Security and the rest of the New Deal: that it imposed, by force of government, a definition on the quality of life, instead of letting individuals choose to define that quality for themselves, as it should be.

Think about it: most people in this country work and slave most of their lives to save up for their retirement. And it doesn't leave them time or passion to do anything else with their life! If we didn't have this damned Social Security and everything else that comes with socialized spending and "womb to the tomb" government involvement, the quality of life for everyone across the board would skyrocket. I’m not talking about "comfort" here, either. Government cannot guarantee a comfortable existence, and it's foolish to look to it for that to begin with. What I'm talking about is having the freedom to make of your life what you want to make of it, instead of just being a cog in the machine.

There is the cause of yer so-called "mid-life crisis" right there: realizing what you only think is too late that that your time on this Earth has been for you to be a slave to altruism, with nothing left for yourself.

But it's never too late. And I don't care how old you are, or even if you are one of my worst enemies (and you know who you are). You can always turn around, and go a different way. And start finding your own purpose in this world, whatever it is that God has for you.

My all-time favorite musical is Children of Eden. Elon's drama department did a production of it almost ten years ago when I was a student there. It's one of only two musicals that I own the soundtrack CD from. The final song of the show is "In The Beginning". Part of it goes like this...

Our hands can choose to drop the knife
Our hearts can choose to stop the hating
For ev'ry moment of our life
Is the beginning...

There is no journey gone so far
So far we cannot stop and change direction
No doom is written in the stars

It's in our hands...

We cannot know what will occur
Just make the journey worth the taking
And pray we're wiser than we were
In the beginning
It's the beginning
Now we begin...

Every moment of our life is the beginning, of something wonderful. It's in our hands.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is: there is no young life, or old life, or even "middle" life. There may be younger or older, but those are just relative terms, and not even empirical values.

There is no bad life, or even a good life.

There is just life.

And it is for you to make of it what you will, however or wherever you are on the journey. So long as you have breath in your lungs, you always have a choice as to what to do with it.

I should already be dead, more times than I care to count. It was a miracle that I even made it out of the hospital after I was born. By age 20 I had skirted fate way more than necessary. By 30 I seriously wondered why was I still alive or even sane (if that can ever be said :-). I've been shot at, poisoned, almost blown to smithereens, nearly decapitated, and some stuff that I still haven't a clue how to begin to relate on this blog.

Considering that past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future returns, I'll be very very fortunate if I'm not pushing daisies by 40.

But you know what? If I die by then or thirty years from now or whenever, it’ll be okay. 'Cuz I'm just trying to make the most of my time now, as best that I can. I try to live each day for God first. That means, as the quote at the top of the page by C.S. Lewis says, I have to "die" to myself so that Christ within me can live that much more. I only wish that I had really understood that much earlier, because it is the fullest life that I have ever known.

Besides, it's much harder to worry about getting older when you've no idea if you're even going to live to see tomorrow. That's a lot more fun that it sounds! :-)

A friend put it to me best a few months ago: "People like us were never young to begin with. Why should we worry about getting old?" Indeed.

But as another friend told me a few days ago: "How can you ever grow old when you don’t stop growing up?" Which echoes the epitaph for Arthur C. Clarke: "He never grew up and did not stop growing." I like that one too, an awful lot.

So the things on my plate that I'm going to try to do in this next year: finish a book (that's already well-underway), make another movie (maybe more than one), build up my business, be the treasurer for a friend's political campaign... and, Lord willing, become a father. If I can have just that last one, everything else will be right with my world :-)

In the meantime, I'm off to enjoy my birthday. I think that Lisa might be getting me Guitar Hero III for the Xbox 360...


Anonymous said...

Beautiful and true words dear Chris!

And you are the _last_ person that I would ever think about as being "old"! I can imagine you still blogging and cutting up with your videos when you're 70. It is as you said in the attitude and spirit and yours is forever young. But that does not mean you have not grown wiser. You have at that.

All my love to you and your wife as you celebrate your life today, dear one.

In Christ,

Abas KS said...

Happy Birthday Chris!

bmovies said...

Happy Birthday Chris :-)

qemuel said...

Happy birthday, broheim!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Chris!

You're just you. Just like we like you :)

Jenna St.Hilaire said...

Happy Birthday ... albeit a day late :-P

Hope your next year is full of blessings!

Anonymous said...

That's one of the most uplifting articles I've read in my life. I'm 49 and I feel much younger after thinking about what you said.