78 is a respectable score, even in cricket. Not spectacular, but better than average. After living for eight decades, my time is running out. If I live one more decade, people will accept my death as that of an old man who had a long and lucky life. If I last another decade after that, it will be time to relieve my loved ones of the burden I will have become (and, they may say, which I have always been …).
I could spend the time I have left watching the world and my life go by, but I prefer, when I am not enjoying the company of family and friends, to devote a large part of my time to reading and especially to writing this Blog for Believers on the Brink. I have the arrogant pretension to think that what I write could be interesting and even useful to browsers who ask themselves the same questions that have kept me thinking and blogging.
The question right now is : What have I done with my life ? O.K. Who cares ? I do. But it’s just possible that my introspection, my “examination of conscience” (!) and life-review might inspire others to ask the same question. Have no fear : this post will not be an autobiographical True Confession; for that you can read the first three chapters of my book, “From Illusions to Illumination”. This will be just a glance in the rear-view mirror, not only to reassure myself that I have not wasted my life (I damn near did …), but perhaps to trigger decisions to make the most of what’s left of it.
Let’s start with a question inspired by one of Jesus’ parables : What did I do with my “talents” ?
False humility has no place here. Nor does the self-deception born of pride. I often speak of my “luck”. Indeed, I could have been born physically or mentally handicapped. I could have been born at a time and in a place and in a milieu which condemned me to hunger, poverty and misery. I could have been deprived of a family environment and an education that made it possible for me to be equipped to face life’s challenges and to seize its opportunities. I could have missed out on the joys and fulfillment of being a husband and a father (I damn near did …). I could have been demolished by misfortune, sickness and tragedy. I could have spent my life in a meaningless, boring job. I could have received a salary (and for a very long time did) that would make a decent retirement impossible. I could have failed to use whatever “talents” I had to lead a life that has been both rewarding and fulfilling.
But instead of contenting myself with badly disguised self-satisfaction, I must ask myself some other more challenging questions : What difference did my life make for others ? How many suffered because of my indifference, cruelty, injustice ? What did I do to bring joy and comfort, encouragement and enlightenment, love and … liberation, into the lives of others, my family, my friends, my students, my professional colleagues and others in the milieux in which I have lived ? What legacy will I leave ?
I am not going to indulge in either self-flagellation or self-congratulation. But questions like those highlight why I should be grateful to so many for making my life the joy it has been and still is (far more often than not), but also why I must carpe the diem ahead of me, however long – or how short – that “dies”, that “day”, may be.