About Life

A lifetime; ever think about what that really means to humanity? To most of us, it means just what it says but to some who really think about that phrase it means a whole lot more than just ones own lifetime. I have thought about just what a lifetime means in terms of the whole of creation! I am not trying to be overly philosophic; it just comes out that way. If you believe that the universe began some fourteen or fifteen billion years ago with a big bang, a lifetime as we know it is just a little less than one fifth of a second in length! On the other hand if you are a creationist who believes that the world is only about six thousand years old then our lives would be about eighty days in length (less than tree months). Either way our lives are very short compared to the age of the world or the universe. I have lived for sixty four years now and it seems like I have lived a very long time by my perspective. In reality though we are like a mote of floating dust in the late afternoon stillness, we float around seemingly without purpose. We live day to day and year by year; we experience things. We live through what is to us very trying experiences of great importance (at the time). We also experience the mundane things that pass without much notice, however the mundane moments are in the overall picture, just as important as the great moments we experience; the only difference is that we do not perceive the mundane things to be important enough to take notice of. The things I am speaking of are; like the afternoon that you were walking home or across a parking lot, when it started to rain. You run for the safety and dryness of the nearest building. That tends to get filed away in our memory and then forgotten but it is there still; even if we cannot remember it as an independent thought. However I have very vivid memories of such things as that, it does not have to be rain; it can be almost anything such as a bump on the head or a bee sting, some things though are remembered very clearly for a long time if not the rest of your life. An example of what I am talking about took place at noontime when I was 15 or 16 years old, I was living in a place called Desert Center California, as the name describes; it is in the middle of the desert! Well I drove out into the hills some distance from the small settlement which was situated on a major two way highway (now interstate 10). I parked my car and climbed up onto a large rock, sat down and just listened! There was absolute silence; no sounds could be heard at all; except the beating of my own heart. I sat there for some time in the sun just looking at the desert landscape. I was not really thinking about anything in particular. I was just drinking in what I was seeing and experiencing in that place of absolute solitude. After sitting there for awhile I suddenly became aware of being watched. I looked around but saw nothing. I then started to feel threatened by something that I could not see or hear! I knew I was alone out there in the desert with nobody around that could have harmed me, but as I continued to sit there the feeling of extreme danger got worse, so much so that I suddenly decided that I needed desperately to get in my car which was about a hundred feet away in a sandy wash and drive back to where there was other people; and that is exactly what I did, without incident. That is one of those passing moments that you do not seem to forget, but if I had not felt that apparently unwarranted threat. I probably would not now remember going into the desert alone. At various times in my life I have had other such mortal moments. You know what I am speaking of, something that really makes our reality as a living being; crystal clear to us. I remember one night when I was about fourteen years old. I was sitting on the lawn in my front yard, when I suddenly felt things become so clear that I was totally mesmerized by the blades of grass there under me! I felt the grass with my hands and it seemed as if it was so alive! Life I thought was all around me; it was in the grass and trees and birds, yes it was all around me. There was I; sitting there as a part of all that living reality. I really appreciate life, and will miss being alive when my time to die comes. We should all stop and smell the roses, as the old saying goes, because if we do not stop, look and listen sometime; we will miss the very essence of what life is all about. As a child I remember feeling the rain and snow falling on me and felt clean all over. I also remember those really foggy days; they were for me so clean and so fresh! I loved the feel of the cold foggy fresh air in my face. Rainy days have always been good days for me; and still are. The wet streets remind me that life is a new challenge with a fresh new start every day, if only we would stop and take the time to really experience them. The streets get clean when it rains for awhile. The beautiful blue skies are something else that I will always venerate, and a very clear starry night is just unbelievable and majestic in scope; the stars just stand out there in stark relief. When we are children the world is so big and sometimes scary, but on the whole children are awestruck by the size of the world and the adults who run things. Our parents and teachers are so very important for us in the formative years! A teacher that looks upon the job as just that, a job, is of little influence on a child’s life, but a teacher who still views the world with awe; will instill that sense of awe in the children they teach. This is the thing that allows us, as a civilization to go forward; instead of just stagnate. The need to know what is over the next hill has always driven us into the future with a sense of wonder and adventure. That is why we went to the moon, and why we will go to Mars and on into the greater universe. We must do such things, or our civilization will wilt and die like a plant without water in the heat of the day. Our lifetime may be short in terms of the overall scale of cosmic time but we seem to learn so very much in that short period! I have had the opportunity to learn so much about life and people in general! One of the things that I have learned is that we are so very much alike, no matter what our religion or lack thereof is. We all love our families and friends. We take pride in our countries and cultures no matter where in the world we come from. We are all human after all! A lot can happen in a human lifetime, especially in the present day. As a species we made very little progress over the last six thousand years or so of written history. But in the period from 1900-1980 there was rapid scientific progress which brought us out of a farm based culture to an industrialized culture. From 1980 to the present our knowledge has increased faster by at least 2 or 3 times, than those prior eighty years from 1900 to 1980. The last thirty years has been a little dizzying; scientifically speaking. Most people live in cities now, whereas at the beginning of the twentieth century most people lived in the country; on farms. Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the country is farmed by large conglomerates; not so much by families anymore. My grandmother was born in 1899 and died in 2002, a total of 103 years! She lived in the 19th century, the 20th century and the 21st century. She saw the age of the horse and carriage as well as the jet and space ages. She saw the First World War, Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. She was still in full control of her mental abilities and loved talking to her great grand children and she was so delighted when I took my first grand child (her great-great grandchild) for her to hold and see (he was only four months old). She never lost the awe and thrill for life, alas her body gave out on her and she died in her sleep in a rest home. She had eight children of which only two are still alive as of this writing, both are in their eighties. How I miss all of them and her too! We must all die! It is the price we pay for being alive. There is the beginning and there is the end, but it is the time in between that we all need to appreciate. That is where we should concentrate all of our energy. We can make good lives for ourselves; if only we could learn to live each passing day to its fullest extent possible. As a foot beat police officer in downtown Los Angeles, I saw so many people living on the streets without any means to eat, and without a roof over their heads. But they were not there because they had no choice in the matter. No, most of them were where they were because they had given up on life or chose to lose themselves in alcohol or drugs! They were where they were because that is where they chose to be. Some say that they are victims of society, but if you talk to them like I did on a daily basis up close and personal, it was they themselves that victimized their own selves, society had nothing to do with their lot in life. They are where they put themselves, and most will come right out and tell you so, they will also tell you to mind your own business in no uncertain terms! We as police officers had a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the people on skid row, they counted upon us to pick them up every once in a while to get medical treatment and a few square meals before going back out on the streets again, and in return they would give us information on who was doing what on the street, no they were their own victims; not victims of society. Social workers will try to tell you differently though, but if they didn’t protect their jobs as social workers by claiming that society is to blame for everybody’s problems in life, they could very well be out of a job! We all start with a clean slate in life. However some seem to have a cleaner slate than others and get all the breaks while most of us (myself included), must work very hard to get ahead in life, but it is not just possible to make a better life; it is almost guaranteed in America that you can do well. If you bust your butt and keep your focus on the goals you set for yourself. Take my life for instance. I come from a migrant farm labor background. I went from town to town and school to school while growing up. I always wanted to play organized sports like baseball and football but was unable too because my family was always moving to a different town before I could get to know anybody I could call friend. I was always the new kid in school as was my sister and two brothers. I want you to understand that I do not fault my parents for the way I grew up, they did the best that they could under the circumstances and they did a good job of raising the four of us. I always wanted to be an air force officer; I wanted to fly airplanes for the air force. That was the goal I set for myself, my dream was to become an air force officer and pilot, the space program was just getting off the ground and my real hero’s were the first seven Mercury astronauts, you guessed it; my ultimate dream was to fly in space as one of America’s astronauts. I took as many college prep classes as I could while attending high school; it was tough because every time I moved (which was several times each school year) the classes would be different or not offered in my new school. I enlisted in the USAF right after I turned eighteen years old. Well I never got to be an air force officer but I didn’t let that get me down, because I did fly missions for the air force; as an aircraft loadmaster during the war in Vietnam. I amassed some 3800 flying hours as a combat air crewman. I applied to be a police officer with the LAPD after getting out of the service. I went to college on the GI bill while working as a police officer. I had stayed away from drugs or trouble with the law while growing up, so was able to get a good job with good pay and a very good retirement system. If I had been unable to become a police officer, I would have searched around until I found my place in life. I would not have given up on life and just wasted my life on drugs and alcohol, when we do that we live in vain! While I am not rich by any possible stretch of the imagination, I am much better off than most folks in my age group. I have a monthly pension which is very good in comparison to other retirement plans. So what I am saying is that we are what we want to be in life, we do not need to live in poverty if we don’t want too. In other parts of the world that may not be as true, but in those parts of the world people are living in poverty because they don’t know any other way to live. Those who run their countries need to keep the masses down and under control, so they can live in luxury and be treated like they are something special! I have very little regard for such people. I know that we all seem to have the need to be above everybody else, but that is just not possible, everybody cannot be the top dog on the block. I for one, don’t want to be a top dog, all I want is to be comfortable in life and be left alone to live my life as I see fit; while I am still alive to enjoy it! Life for us seems to go pretty slowly, that is until we start to show signs of the passage of time, when our bodies begin not serve us as it always has over the years. Memory begins to falter and that young muscle tone goes away. Things that seemed so important to us when we were younger; just doesn’t have the importance for us the way it used too. That overpowering attraction we had for the opposite sex is no longer there either! That is one of the most startling things about growing older for me. The idea that that attraction would go away before I died, just never occurred to me! Oh I still like to see a pretty young lady but I now only think of the beauty not the sensual side of that beauty. My soul mate and wife for forty-two years now is the light of my life and without her I would just wither away and die! Each one of us must make the best with what we are given in life; we must do those things that will allow us to live a good life or we could find ourselves on the street like those poor souls who live and die on skid row. Every day we would find somebody laying dead in the gutter or in an alley, most of the time we knew them by name and even knew how they came to be on the street. Most had nobody to contact and tell that they had passed away. It is with great sadness that you realize that you are the only person who knew the derelicts name, most of them no longer cared enough to carry identification on their person and even the name you knew them by; most likely was not the real name. So when the coroner got to the scene and picked up the dead body the name you gave to the coroner was what the person was known by, those whom we did not know became John or Jane Doe’s, they were shipped off for a quick post mortem examination to make sure they were not a victim of murder then after a short period of time they would be cremated and the ashes disposed of. What a terrible end for any person! To have lived such a nameless, vain, lost life! I always grieved for them because I know that someone somewhere would always wonder what in the world happened to that person! They just dropped out of sight and were never seen or heard from again. Someone somewhere would have appreciated a notification of the passing, but since no next of kin was known, no notification was possible. At least they had the police officers, who saw them every day to mourn their loss, and we really did mourn for them, but we did so in the knowledge that they went the way they wanted to go! Anonymously! In the long run we are all forgotten though, because those we leave behind also age and then die; generation after generation we come and go. It sounds as if I am very depressed with life as it ebbs away day by day but you would be wrong because I am very satisfied with the life I have lived. I wish I had another full lifetime to go but that is just not in the cards. So I must out of necessity get a grip on reality, and take life a day at a time. I will do my best to thank God somehow for allowing me this life I have lived in his world. I have known some very fine people that I still call friend and served with in the USAF and the LAPD. They are all second to none as far as decent human beings are concerned. Some lost heir lives in the line of duty but that comes with the territory, and some have passed on since retiring. I came close on several occasions to becoming a statistic, and dying in the line of duty with the air force and the LAPD, but for what ever reason God saw fit to allow me to continue to live; so here I am still! I must admit to something though, while I am fearful of death, I am at the same time so very curious to find out the truth about life after death! Is it good or is it bad? It is a certainty that we will all find out when that day arrives for us though. I just pray that it is good for us all; not just some of us! The book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible reflects exactly what I am trying to say! It was written by Solomon, son of King David and King in Jerusalem. The writer referred to himself as the teacher, which is exactly what Solomon was because he sought knowledge and wisdom for his people. This book of the bible is one that I have read many times and it still fascinates me because it tells us that no matter what kind of life we live, death will always claim our bodies without exception! I don’t know if Solomon was depressed or just bitter about his approaching death, but he made it very clear that he considered everything he did as having been done in vain! It is known that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines; he was the richest known monarch in the recorded living history of the world. He had total power over all things in his world! But even Solomon died; as we all must! So I think what I am trying to get across to you is that we must enjoy this life as we live it; because we may never come this way again. There are many who would vehemently disagree with that assessment, but I am not saying we never live again. I am just saying that we do not know what death holds for us and therefore we cannot make such positive statements on the state of death. Who knows! We may continue to return to life in new bodies as so many people believe, or we may just dissolve into oblivion and not remember ever having lived! I think however; and this is just my guess. We do have an existence after metabolic death but what will it be? I pray it is good for all of us. Solomon does not mention heaven or hell or any life after death at all. He just says in the very last verses that we should do gods will. I think that if we take Solomon’s advice and do our level best to do Gods will, he will smile upon us and show us all the mercy he is capable of; which is all there is! I have experienced things that made me very fearful. Like the sound of wind, which has always made me think of emptiness, as a child I never liked windy days, especially when we lived in the desert. Everything was so deserted and empty, as if the whole population of the world had somehow disappeared. Old buildings and dusty roads were there but the people were all gone, I always got the feeling of dread and fear even when other people were around. I very much disliked windy days (still do)! I also have a severe phobia of heights! That may sound rather silly since I was a flyer for the air force, but in an aircraft there is no reference point from where you are to the ground, like there is if you stand at the edge of a precipice and look over the side! You have the side of the building or side of the cliff that lets you know that it is a major threat to your life! I could never be a fireman who has to climb ladders all the time. I could not do the climbing; I sometimes freeze up and need help getting to firm ground. This happened to me once when my son and I went on a camping trip to Colorado. We were at the black canyon of the Gunnison River. There is a pinnacle about thirty feet from the side of the canyon wall that drops down for more than 1500 feet; a narrow bridge spans the distance over to the top of the pinnacle, well I made the walk over with little problem but as I started walking back across to solid ground, I got really dizzy and needed my son to hold me steady while I finished the crossing to solid ground. I did the same thing at Meteor Crater in Arizona, I got out onto the wood and metal platform that extends out from the edge of the crater edge about twenty or thirty feet, when I suddenly had to scurry back to solid ground. Both structures are perfectly safe to be on; but it sometimes gets into our heads that we are in extreme danger whether we really are or not. So you see sometimes small insignificant things can have extreme consequences for us mentally! We seem to retain the extremes and forget the mundane. I guess that it should not be such a mystery for me; but it is. The things we experience should not be forgotten; but are forgotten on a regular basis. I have been married to my Thai wife for 42 years now and you would think that after all that time I would understand the Thai language fluently, but I don’t. Why? I am not sure. I have been told many times over the years what a word or combination of words in Thai means, but for the life of me, I cannot retain that information! I don’t think that I am really stupid but if you used the language retention I have; you would probably swear that I was most likely stupid. When I went to high school I took French, and after a full year I didn’t know how to speak French any better that I did when I first started the class (and I got good grades in that class too), why? What is the problem? Maybe I just don’t have an aptitude for languages, but why? Other folks speak several different languages fluently like my wife; she speaks Thai, English and Laotian. She reads and writes all three of them very well. That is just another little thing about life that mystifies me. I guess that our different abilities and phobias just show that we are all only human after all; don’t you think? There is something else that is fascinating to me! The idea of experts! Are there really such people? I know that there are people who specialize in certain career fields that call themselves expert; but are they really? We are on the most part just laymen when it come to technical things. Take Physics or Medicine or other scientifically technical fields, most of us have no clue in such things, but in fact does any so called expert? Yes they may have some technical expertise and experience but does that really make them experts? The answer would be yes to most of us (myself included) because they are way ahead of the rest of us in their perspective fields. However they are as lost as the rest of us when it comes to something like plumbing! You need to have a plumber to give you the expert service required in that field. So my thought that there really are no experts except in the very narrowest meaning of the word is still relevant. When I say expert I mean expert in almost anything you can think of, an expert in almost everything, which as you know is probably not possible for any of us. This question of a total expert was only a mind exercise and not meant to be a serious question although it could be a really good topic for debate; don’t you think? The point that I am trying to get across though is that no matter how old or how educated we are, we are still nothing but human with human frailties. We all need to feel that life is manageable and that someone somewhere is in control and able to protect us from any harm. We have armies to protect us in times of national emergencies; we have governments that are supposed to protect us from domestic threats such as law breakers that would break in on us during the night; while we are asleep and vulnerable. We have written laws that are supposed to be enforced by the police so as to protect society as a whole. But even with all those safeguards we are still threatened by things that none of us can control such as weather, earthquakes, natural fires and floods. In the long run we are still like little children that need to be protected by a higher power; so we turn to God! The problem though is that there are as many ideas as to what God is; as there are people in the world. Most of us listen to the voices of self proclaimed holy men, or a holy man that is ordained by a council of his peers to be known as holy! There have been very few so called holy men that have withstood the test of time. Abraham and Moses, or Buddha who lived some 2500 years ago, he was a prince in northern India who deserted his kingdom and people to become a wondering monk who eventually founded the Buddhist religion. Jesus Christ who lived about 2000 years ago, he was born to a carpenter and his wife Mary in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth of the land of Judea. Jesus lived only thirty-three years and only the last three years was lived spreading his message to the world (I consider myself a Christian), that message was that God is love and we should learn to have compassion and love for each other; as God willed us to have. Then there was Mohammad who lived about 1500 years ago, he was a middle aged potentate of Arabia, who assaulted other city states and killed all those who opposed his rule. He began to have dreams or maybe nightmares, when he was in his sixties, this caused him to found the religion we know today as Moslem or Islam; his religion today threatens the entire world and all who live in the world. Of all the people in history that have been called holy, Christ is the only one that preached peace, tolerance, compassion and love for his fellow humans. He appears to have been a one of a kind in that respect, and that is why I accept him as what he said he was; the son of God. While it is true that we are all sons and daughters of God, he was a special son of God. Of all the so called holy men down through history, he is the only one that may actually be able to truly protect us from eternal harm. Not even he can save our flesh and blood bodies from destruction though, which is preordained. As adults we seek protection from harm just as we did when we were children. It seems as though we forget that we will eventually die! Some folks kill or they destroy somebody else’s life to get what they want for themselves, but alas they all fall in the end and must face that great mystery called death! Just because they chose not to believe that God or an afterlife is real, does not make them immune from the responsibility they must take for their actions on this earth. No, we are responsible for the choices that we make in life right or wrong. The bible speaks of the false prophets and false gods that will seduce people into worshipping them but in the end they will pay a price for that ill advised worship, both the false god or prophet and his followers. But I think that God may not be as vindictive to us as some think that he might be (I certainly hope he is not). Because even the most visibly evil person in history was human and had hopes and dreams as well as families that they loved, somewhere along the way they lost their way and strayed far from the right path. I think that we need protection from our own actions rather than from some physical danger. What if though for the sake of argument, there is no physical God that created the universe? What if the Atheists’ are right? If that is the case then all the sacrifices made by so many religious people down through the ages; have been in vain! Then we are living for no real reason at all except the gratification we attain in this life and when it is over we just fall into total oblivion. That I think just cannot be the case and reject that way of thinking out of hand. No, we must have a reason for living and most of us live for God, and his protection in eternity! Without the idea of a creator there is no moral high ground, no reason to be civil to each other and no reason for loyalty towards anything or anybody! Civil society would most likely not exist without the moral laws that have been handed down through the ages, and this is because people have seen fit to incorporate a set of rules they interpret as coming from God. Without such rules of law we would be nothing more than animals that kill and get killed. I think that humanity is above the animals in that we stand for a civil society that the animals cannot understand and can never have.