“I drift about without rudder or compass, a wreck on the sea of life; I have no memories to cheer me, no pleasant illusions of the future to comfort me, or about myself to satisfy my vanity. I have no family to furnish the only kind of survival that concerns us, no friends for the wholesome development of my affections, or enemies for my malice” – Alfred Bernhard Nobel
Contrasting when I was in my thirties against being 40+ years old now, there’s a significant shift in my attitude, perspective and thinking.
Maybe it is similar for many others, too. (Including you?)
Typically, the first 3 decades of our life is spent growing up, and acquiring skills or knowledge. By the time we’re 30, it’s time to put it all into action.
If one word could describe how I felt around that age, it would be “hungry”.
Hungry for fame. Hungry for success. Hungry for wealth.
And for achievement, making dreams come true, and reaching for the stars.
Like a heavyweight boxer who knows every punch he lands in the ring carries the terrible impact of hundreds of hours of training, I knew that my actions will also pack a powerful punch. Behind that lies the force of all the learning and practice that went earlier.
And I was eager to get in as many as I could on target.
Turning forty added one significant shift. Knowing the power that’s available on tap, the question arose of whether or not to use it, and when.
The word that now took precedence over “hungry” was – “reflective“.
But alongside it, another presence grew stronger – and it kept asking “Why?”
There was a time when I wouldn’t think twice about staying up all night working on something important, just to get it done. Today I wonder if that’s really necessary.
There were occasions where I would happily plot the downfall of someone – a competitior, a rival, a critic – who got in the way of my eager enthusiasm to work towards a challenging goal. These days, I don’t think it matters so much as getting things done in another way, bypassing him (or her).
There used to be circumstances when I’d place my fiery desire for a worthy result ahead of everything else in my life. Now, the passion still burns strong – but isn’t a constant, roaring, all-consuming flame.
I have grown reflective.
Because my philosophy has changed.
With wider experience, more reading, intimate interaction with more people, and a deeper empathy with cross-sections of humanity I’ve never known (or cared much for) earlier, there are many more and variegated threads in the rich tapestry of my life.
As I ponder these changes at the end of the first decade of a new century, I can’t help but wonder how much more will evolve at each succeeding landmark – fifty, sixty, seventy, and beyond.
I can’t wait to see!
(If you’re older – or even younger – and would care to give it a thought, tell me what YOUR word is for the decade that’s gone, and the one that is. Tweet me @drmani on Twitter!)
Indian custom dictates a long series of ‘last rites’. When the seemingly endless sequence of rituals ended after nearly an hour, the mortal remains were ceremonially consecrated to electric heat of the modern crematorium.
We waited outside for an hour, chatting aimlessly about various things – subliminally aware, all the while, about the event we were soon about to experience.
Finally, the time came.
A young man, bent a little with the weight of his burden, came out carrying a metal box by it’s handles. Each side of the square box measured about 18 inches, and it was 3 inches deep.
It contained all that was left of the man we once knew, respected and loved.
Cremation shifts many paradigms about what we value in life.
Everyone, no matter how great or small, rich or poor, young or old, powerful or weak, influential or ignored – everyone will be reduced to a box full of ash… literally!
Isn’t that a great perspective from which to focus on more than the merely physical?
I'm Dr.Mani, a pediatric heart surgeon and author. I raise funds to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. On this blog, I'll share my thoughts, travel photos, fitness tips and book reviews.