Longevity To What Purpose

Our culture today is obsessed with the length of our lives.  We pat ourselves on the back about it all the time.  Statistically I can expect to make it 74 years!  Sounds pretty great, but is longevity alone deserving of all the accolades?  As soon as we add quality of life and quality of mind to the discussion, it immediately gets muddy.  Do you want to live in pain?  If your mind deteriorates long before your body, what then?  The discussion gets further muddied if we talk about happiness and regret.  Does adding 10 extra years of unhappiness sound appealing?

While a deep and lengthy discussion is worth having on this issue, ancient wisdom gives a practical way to respond to this question.  Their answer was that we should conduct ourselves in such a way that our vitality and health last long enough for us to accomplish our life’s purpose before we die.  With this frame of reference, we no longer focus so much on length of life, but on staying healthy enough to take care of business.  I love using this frame of reference because it changes the whole conversation.

I brush my teeth so they don’t rot becomes I love to perform and communicate my ideas to groups of people.  So I brush my teeth to keep them looking great.

I exercise because my family has bad hearts becomes I want to see my granddaughter graduate college.  I need to pay extra attention to strengthening my heart because several members of my family have died young of heart disease.

All of the sudden we have some passion and direction to this discussion of longevity.  It helps us frame what we need to focus on.   Depending on our goals, it shows us how intense we need to work to stay fit, healthy, or mentally sharp.  It also forces us to ask some new questions.  Three of my favorites are:

1: Do you know what you want out of life?

2: Are you building the skills and maintaining your focus enough to get to the goals that truly matter?

3: Am a pushing too hard where it doesn’t matter?

We all want to live healthy, happy, fruitful lives that mean something.  I hope this little bit of wisdom from the past can help you define exactly what that means for you.  Setting the proper attitudes for why we do what we do is just the first step.  While it is indeed a critical step, proper attitude is still just the first in the long journey of wellness.

Caution:  Life is messy and time marches on regardless.  It’s the same for everyone.  Only you can set the priorities that will result in your contentment or regret.

Remember:  Big goals are accomplished in little steps.

A Silken Thread

There once was a maiden trapped in a tower.  There were no stairs, and there was no ladder.  To jump was certain death.  In short, the maiden was indeed trapped.  She had no recourse but to look out the single window day after day in misery.

A saint happened by one day and the maiden began calling for help.  The saint’s heart opened to her plight and he set out to help her from her confinement and miserable circumstance.  The maiden was overjoyed when the saint stopped from his journey and said simply, “I will help you.”

Watching from above, the maiden saw him searching through the bushes and rummaging around.  Could he help her?  Would he?

As the saint came up to the tower he held a caterpillar close, and appeared to be speaking to it.  With the caterpillars aid assured, he proceeded.  The saint grasped onto the thin thread of silk the caterpillar was spinning, the caterpillar began to climb.  For hours, the caterpillar climbed.  The thread of silk got longer.  The maiden got angrier!

What trick was this old fool playing?  Couldn’t he see she was truly trapped?  What good was a caterpillar, the devious old villain!

As the caterpillar approached the window the saint opened his traveling bag and pulled out a linen shirt.  Clipping the end, he pulled loose a thread, which he then gently tied to the thin piece of silk.  The saint called out. “Grab hold of the silken thread our friend has delivered to you.  Gently pull it up until you hold the linen thread.”

The maiden made a choice.  Mostly because she was so lonely and had nothing else to do, she humored the old fool.  Frustrated and annoyed, she began to pull.  She pulled and pulled until she held the linen thread in hand.  It blew in the wind, strung between the saint and the maiden like a thin piece of hope; easily dashed and severed.

The saint worked again.  He unwove a second shirt, this time tying three linen threads to the first.  His instructions were the same.  Again the maiden, angry and confused, humored the old fool.  She pulled the linen thread with diligence until she held the three threads in hand.

In just this way, the saint and the maiden worked throughout the night.  The thin piece of silk grew from three linen threads to a small braid.  Then, a thick braid was pulled to the top.  Afterwards it was a thin rope.  Each step along the way the thread became thicker and stronger.  It wasn’t until the next morning, after long hours or work, that the silken thread had grown into a rope strong enough to support the maiden.  In the fresh sunlight of dawn, she descended to freedom on the sturdy rope they had built from a caterpillar’s thin silken thread.

Remember:  There is much wisdom in creating smaller goals that run underneath and alongside our main goal.

Caution:  We have all turned our back on helping hands because our limited perspective doesn’t see the opportunity presented.  We all would pull on the thin rope to get the sturdy rope; it’s easy to see the result.   But, would you have pulled the caterpillar’s thread?