“Quality of life” is a term so ubiquitous and oft used that it has become banal. The question to be asked is: What does the phrase truly mean or entail? Are we speaking of material well-being or spiritual enlightenment? Are we living the ultimate American Dream or are we ensconced in the upper reaches of Bhutan: the self-described happiest country on Earth? (1) These questions are fraught with as many new questions as they are filled with antiquated answers. Obviously, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Are we capable of making ourselves “World Citizens” (2) or must we choose between civilizations and countries?
I always find that it is great fun to deal with people, young souls in particular – they are diverse and multi-faceted – distressed and joyous. Recently, I had the chance to experience several people who were truly morose – everything was despicable and life was a nuisance at best. One was slightly older and the other was of school age. I used to dismiss these sorts of people and just “move on.” I would simply tell myself “Who has the time to deal with a curmudgeon?” That is the point, of course — no one does! They continue to exist in a world that is devoid of human kindness and thoughtfulness. They are putting “up a wall” and stopping the goodness of human interaction flow over their emotional parapet. I have decided that I am no longer going to give these people “a pass.” (1)
When do I get my silence, that little piece of space that is only mine and allows me to reflect? There are so, so many things that I truly do not understand. These occur to such an extent that I could believe that this life is but an illusion: a dream within a dream. When we watch the “news,” we are continually exposed to unbelievable violence and anguish. Yet in my life, I have experienced none of it. Am I merely lucky or is this but a created vector, a falsehood which attempts to move me in a certain way of thinking? I have come to contemplate thoughts like these as the years flash by. An example: as we know from the media, the world is quite literally “coming unglued.” There is unheard of violence on the streets and society is descending into anarchy, in the worst sense of the word. Yet two weeks ago, I went to a wedding and sat at a table with a local businessman. He had just opened a factory in a “violent” part of the world. I asked him about the security of his person and that of his employees. He looked at me in a quite flummoxed way. “I would never invest in a dangerous country; that country is fine. Why?” Now, who should I believe: the mass communications industry or this man?
As I age chronologically, I am reminded of what an Indian doctor once told me in Calcutta. “The body is like an old Mercedes Benz, sir – replace the tires, clean the headlights and change the oil, and it will run for over 500,000 kilometers.” What he meant by this, of course, is that the corporeal being carries me throughout a, potentially long, life: keep it healthy with prescient and intelligent practices – good nutrition, regular exercise, etc — and it will run for a long time.
The first several weeks, of either the beginning of school or the return to work after an extended vacation, are turbulent, to say the least. We quickly forget the pleasures associated with rest and the joy of family and old friends. We must plunge “headlong” into the tasks at hand. Why does paper on a desk seem to grow exponentially when we are away? All of this, I remind myself is self-created, albeit the vacation itself or the anxiety that I now experience. Calming these feelings, is, of course, a lot easier “said than done.”