A genuine shock on my recent 88th birthday was the reaction of several friends in their forties and fifties. One seemed to speak for the others when he said "You've had a great life. Soon you'll die and get out of here before the bubble bursts. Everything is going to crash, our public life will be a mess, and you'll happily sail off into a freer, easier place. I envy you."
This startled me because, in the first place, I'm actively living every day, each moment. I'm not pessimistic about the human condition. In other words, life itself is fantastic and, frankly, there appears to be no alternative. However, have I any specific suggestions for others, including my apparently worried younger friends?
Yes, I do.
Cultivate simplicity. Laugh at your own complexity, share and analyze it with others. When you use words, have them say what you mean. If there is a key to your mystery, let people have it so they can understand you.
Act in fresh, spontaneous, freeing ways. Speak to someone who appears forbidding. Make a telephone call you've been afraid of. Break a heavy silence. Write a letter that has long been written in your mind. Help someone to smile or laugh.
In your imagination walk up a mysterious street you have long wondered or dreamed about. Study its detail. Make it real.
Don't worry about what other people think. Most of them are thinking about themselves. Laugh uproariously if you feel like it. Go to a park and ride a swing. When you look at a picture, a bird or an ocean -- when you hear a poem, the wind or a cello -- cry if you are moved and want to.
Find a quiet place (at least within you), sit down, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, quiet the mind. Anxiety is a notorious foe of life, peace and love. If you're at ease with yourself, others can be at ease with you too.
Since no one is an island, quit acting like one. Reach out for help, ask for it, and humbly admit your need. And when you perceive need in someone else, offer help without feeling superior. Survival means banding together; justice requires it.
Life is brief, measured by a few decades. Do you realize this? Has this absolute reality permeated your consciousness? What can you do?
Strip and dive into the water. Drop the other shoe. Say, "Yes."
In a far moment some future earthling, or a visitor from outer space, may observe remnants of our lives and exclaim: "These were good people. They were truly our brothers and sisters. I wish we could have known them."