While talking to my cousin Curt who lives in Minnesota and is our go-to guy for the practical nuts-and-bolts info that we California rubes need to know (things like what car will handle the ice on the driveway, and how much heating oil to fill the tank) I may have been whining a bit about the stress of it all and he said – “Here’s what I just read today – Embrace change.”
EMBRACE CHANGE. That brought me up short and slapped my spinning mind into reality. “It’s in the paper, just a minute”, he said. And read to me about the passing of the world’s oldest man who, of course, had been previously asked about the secret of his longevity and listed four pieces of advice. I didn’t hear just what the derivation or where the old man resided before the end, but his homilies seemed meant for my ears at just this time and most particularly the first which I’m now making my personal mantra.
The second admonition was to EAT TWO MEALS A DAY, and here we just might part company a bit and not because I am an overeater, just the opposite, but when you have a “personal chef” you take advantage of it. But I see his point in general and it certainly addresses the problem that so many face which is simply – eating “badly”. One could say – Eat less and eat healthy. And that we do. In spite of the whipped cream and other “treats” in moderation, my mother was the original health food queen long before it was popular. And we carefully control our trans-fats and assiduously read labels and shop organic at the farmer’s market. So, Mr. Longevity, I get your point.
The third piece of advice was to WORK AS LONG AS YOU CAN, and that I have certainly done somewhat beyond my “retirement years” and would still be doing until the last packing day if the road had not fallen into the sea.
In Minnesota – we’ll see. There will be work in the new garden and baking in the kitchen and spinning my thoughts into cyberspace, but then that might not qualify as “work”. But this too, is good advice and he was right on this account as well.
So the second and the third stand as good, practical advice. The first is deeply felt and will require constant care and diligence and I suspect I will fall and falter here a bit, but I am taking it personally and gratefully to heart.
Finally this wise old man said – HELP OTHERS. And that I believe is the simple secret for us all. Taken to heart it’s the world changer. It’s the key.
It’s the esoteric truth clothed in a simple homily. It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the concentric rings spread out. It’s just the opposite of the man-kicks-dog, dog-bites-man scenario.
I was struck by the “random acts of kindness” movement that circulated a few years ago. The story as I read it, began when someone crossing the Golden Gate Bridge told the toll taker that he was paying for the car behind him. One could imagine that the recipient might just react with paranoia about the motivation of the “nut” in front of him, but he also might be awed by the spirit of the intent and moved to simple acts of kindness himself. Like the circles from the stone, it can multiply. There is a teacher, Catherine Ryan Hyde at Cuesta, our local community college in San Luis Obispo, who wrote the book “Pay it Forward” which was subsequently made into a movie with Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. The conception is brilliant and heartening and embraces perfectly Mr. Longevity’s advice. It involves a young boy whose social studies teacher gives an assignment to construct a scheme not only for changing the world, but putting it into action. The boy, motivated by troubling issues in his own life, creates the Pay it Forward Plan which suggests that every good turn which happens to befall a person be repaid to three other people. Do the math. The spread throughout society is no longer in a pond but “oceanic”!
In the meantime, I’ve written down the four guidelines, and I’m doing my very best to follow through.