Lessons at the end point | Sunday Observer

Lessons at the end point

16 January, 2022

I met a man in his 90s. He had no apparent physical disabilities. He was walking briskly in his morning rounds. When he paused at a point I approached him.

“Good morning! You seem to enjoy life. What are you planning to do after the walk?”

“Well, I have an important job to do. I am writing a note about my life and everything I want to say.”

“Don’t you feel a sense of panic?”

“No, I have settled down making peace with the fact that we are, in the words of American poet, Carl Sandburg, “riding on a limited express.” And then, by serendipity, I read an article about what to do when you are lost: Stop. Investigate. Go over everything you know. Continue forward if you are at all certain of your route. If you move, leave a note. The day I finish writing the note, I bid goodbye to life. One day I had the audacity to peek at what he was writing.

Here are some extracts from his note:

Leading people

Most of us try to imitate leading people in different fields. As a teenager I was fascinated by a leading criminal lawyer who happened to pass my house in his car. After passing my GCE A/L examination I joined the Sri Lanka Law College with the sole aim of becoming a lawyer. However, after one year, I found that I was not cut out to be a lawyer. Then I gave up law studies and followed many other courses but nothing appealed to me. I did not know what to do in such a stressful situation. Then quite by accident I became a scribe.

As a callow youth I associated with different people. Most of them drank and smoked. They told me life had to be enjoyed. I too tried to follow their advice. But it dawned on me that they were not real friends. You need extreme courage to rise against peer pressure. Amazingly, people think the things that happen to them happen only to them. This is a popular myth. You cannot avoid bad periods in life by consulting astrologers. Everybody should be ready to face unexpected disasters. Life is not a smooth journey. There are many potholes on the path you travel. Use your brain and common sense to deal with unexpected problems.

Even those who mechanically recite the precepts know that lying is an immoral act. Have you ever met a person who has never uttered a lie in their life? The lies we tell ourselves are more pernicious than the lies we tell others. I have heard people say “I’m not like my mother.” That means your mother tells lies but you don’t. You meet an obese person and ask, “Why don’t you do some exercise?” Pat comes the reply: “I’m too busy to do any exercise.” When you say you are too busy to do any exercise, you expect others to believe that you are an important person. When you meet an aging bachelor or spinster, they will tell you, “We don’t want to get married.” This is a palpable lie.

Keep company

Most of us keep company with our own people. Why don’t we get to know people who belong to another nationality or religion? Instead of keeping your distance from them, you need to know their views and culture. If you do not personally get to know them, it is very easy to believe ugly stories about them and make them frightening in your mind.

A large number of people skip their breakfast. They have so many excuses to give: “I have to catch the train. If I get late to office, there will be a pay-cut.” Then there are others who skip their breakfast in order to reduce their weight. All these people are sadly mistaken. You cannot lose weight by skipping breakfast which is essential for the body. Those who skip breakfast will not be able to do their work satisfactorily.

We have forgotten everything about personal relationships. Some men spend more time maintaining their lawns than they do their relationships. We eternally postpone meeting our relatives and friends. We simply phone them and ask how they are getting on. Talking over the phone will not strengthen human relationships. You have to meet your relatives and friends at least occasionally.

Lonely and hopeless

A widow living alone in a big house tells me a sad story. Some days she feels scared, lonely and hopeless. Then she adds: “After a good night’s sleep or a talk with someone who holds my hand and tells me to keep going, I just feel fine.” Men of course can visit places alone and break their monotony of existence. However, it is not possible for a lonely woman to go out at will. If you know someone living alone, pay them a visit once in a way. You will make them happy.

Although we work for eight or nine hours there are people who work for more than 12 to 15 hours a day. Their argument is that if they work long hours they will be able to earn more by way of overtime. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the heavy price they will have to pay later in life.

Your body and mind get tired when you work for long hours. You need rest and relaxation. Working is only a part of life but you need to read newspapers, books and engage in other recreational activities. I believe that people who work long hours do not go home with bigger loaves than those who work normal hours.

There are many people who do not do any work and depend on others for their requirements. They are like parasites. But I have observed that those who do not do any work are often more exhausted than people who work. Unemployed graduates are asking the government for jobs. If you have studied a particular subject well up to the degree level, you should be able to find a job.

Achieve greatness

We admire great people of all ages. While you need courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfilment in being ordinary. We are on individual quests for what is ultimately satisfying in life. Every now and then those quests produce quite a surprise.

The sun rises and sets in glorious colour over every inch of the earth in full view of every living creature. But you do not have to jump higher than anyone else to see it!

Leading an ordinary but meaningful life is an adventure. You work hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. If you are caring and sharing, giving and loving, you are an extraordinary person. However, do not expect rewards, medals or honorary doctorates for any of your pursuits. Gold or bronze cannot measure the work of an individual.

Each day you awake is a new start, another chance. Therefore, do not waste it on self-pity, sloth and selfishness. Roll that day around on your tongue, relish the taste of its freedom. Breathe deeply of the morning air, savour the fragrance of opportunity.

Run your hands along the spine of those precious hours and feel the strength in that sinew and bone. Life is raw material and you are an artisan. You can sculpt your existence into something beautiful. That should be the sole aim in your life. [email protected]