On finding meaning and purpose

“Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it." – Stephen Hawking In a 2010 interview on ABC World News. Recently a friend was telling me that since retiring, complex  furniture making projects had been filling his time. He was also hoping to reconnect with a former coworker who recently retired. He then asked what I was doing since leaving my job, and I replied that in my opinion I hadn’t 'left" anything. With a smile I said, “ As far as I’m concerned, retirement has promoted me to the leisure class, so now I'm working on self improvement. ” “ I don’t do leisure, ” he responded in a serious tone. I believe in working in order to live, and I diligently did so for 43 years before retiring. However, even lowly work horses are not expected to die while in harness. The lucky ones spend their senior years grazing in a peaceful pasture. A life that is finally able to be relieved of punishing labor, urgent assignments or pressing de

Today I die

People frequently talk about their inevitable death as if it were going to occur sometime in the future. I happen to know that I will not be dying in the future.  Let me explain.  Nearly everyone I meet seems to be focused on the future. They talk about what they'll do after getting off work, or where they plan to travel to on their next vacation, or what they plan to do once they've completed their education. At my stage of life everyone is talking about how they will finally enjoy life when they eventually retire from work. All any of us really have is today. All we have is the present and if we are not living right now, in the present, we are tossing aside the only life we have. When the longest- and shortest-lived of us dies, the loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any of us can be deprived is the present, since this is all we own, and nobody can lose what is not theirs. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.14 Since I have no assurance of living one moment

On discontent

Ever notice how some people love to moan and gripe? I have noticed that more than just a few individuals make negativity and complaining central to their conversational repertoire. Recently I had a chat with a young man who appeared to be harboring a tremendous amount of anger and outrage regarding the existence of the extremely wealthy. At the mere mention of names like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, his face flushed and his temper flared. “Rich people’s children receive unfair advantages that guarantee they will enjoy success regardless of their talents, skills or personal efforts," he said. "My child, however, will have to fight and struggle every day of his life and may never succeed.” His angst then moved on to the inadequacies of democratic capitalism in the uneven distribution of wealth and in how the powerful are able to take advantage of the underprivileged. He was also infuriated about perceptions that his generation has a terrible work ethic. Th

On interpreting reality

Reality for my dog is uncomplicated. She understands life to be a series of eating, sleeping, running, sniffing, barking, guarding, trusting some and distrusting others, and above all expressing affection and loyalty to her pack (human family). In short, reality for my dog is displaying the qualities usually associated with a dog. She neither searches for or desires a higher purpose, nor does she fear sickness or death. She does not accumulate possessions and is not afflicted by envy, avarice, or demanding addictions and passions. Beyond just living out her days according to her nature, there is nothing else. She is at peace and content with her lot. Regardless of various differences in appearance, aptitudes and situations, dogs appear to be consistently content with their lives. People, however, are complicated. We believe we are somehow special in the universe and are notoriously discontent with nearly everything in our lives on a regular basis. Just sitting still for an hour can

On Who I am and Where I Came From

On the true art of conversation

Assumption, projection and insecurity are hallmarks for most of today’s casual conversations. Casual Conversations are more like sporting events than attempts at understanding one another or in building relationships. In my experience, entering a casual conversation is a stressful game where conversants compete and try to outdo each other.  For instance, I was recently with a group of relatives I hadn’t seen in several years when the topic of automobiles came up. I mentioned that we had recently purchased an Acura TLX only to have it totalled by a distracted driver two months later. The other driver broadsided my wife and I at such a high rate of speed that eight of the airbags deployed. Somehow, no one in either vehicle was hurt. When I paused in the story for a second, everyone there jumped in taking turns sharing their “I was in a wreck too” story. One person went into great detail about being rear ended. Another said he had fallen asleep driving home from work and plowed into a sto

On Impermanence

I am aware that nothing lasts forever, but for some unaccountable reason I spent decades behaving as if my life has lasting relevance or meaning. The fact is, once I’m gone, the march of history will pave over and cover all  evidence of my ever having existed. Some shred of remembrance may temporarily  endure in the minds of a few who knew me, but all my memories will cease at my demise. And before long, even those who remember me will be long gone as well. And so it is with every living thing on this planet.  I have seen and continue to see change in myself and others. Relationship dynamics change. Children change as they grow up. Adults change as they grow older. Friends, relatives and even enemies leave us, if we don’t leave them first. Autos rolling off the assembly line are before too long towed off to the junkyard. Fortunes are made and lost. Our pets grow old and leave us behind. Businesses that are worldwide and seem eternal disappear in bankruptcy. Empires are built and destr