Staying Sane

Are you sane? And if you are, how do you stay that way?

Two groups of personality disorders:

People in chaos, who lurch from crisis to crisis.

People in a rut who operate in a rigid fashion.

You need to be on the path between those two extremes and maintain a stable, flexible demeanor. In other words, the path to staying sane.

If we are falling deeper into a rut or deeper into chaos, we need to interrupt our fall. We need to change. We need a new focus in life. We need new behaviors and thinking.

Change Happens In Four Areas: They are the cornerstones of sanity:

  1. Self-Observation
  2. Relating to Others
  3. Stress
  4. Personal Narrative

SELF-OBSERVATION—We learn to stand OUTSIDE of ourselves to experience and access feelings and thoughts as they occur and see how they affect us.

It gives us space to decide: HOW TO ACT. We need to develop self-observation to increase self-awareness.

Self-observation is a tool that enables us to become less self-absorbed, because it teaches us NOT to be taken over by obsessive thoughts and feelings.

The ability to observe and listen to feelings and bodily sensations is essential to staying sane.

We need to be able to USE our feelings but NOT to be USED by them.

We should try to separate ourselves from our feelings. Also, it is necessary to be able to observe our thoughts.

Then we can notice the different kinds of thoughts we have, and can examine them, rather than BE them.

This allows us to notice which thoughts work well for us and which are self-defeating.


To begin self-observing ask yourself these questions:

What am I feeling NOW?

What am I thinking NOW?

What am I doing at this moment?

How am I breathing?

After answering, the next question is:

What do I want for myself in this NEW MOMENT?


These questions are the “GROUNDING EXERCISE”.

When you do the grounding exercise it helps to place ourselves in our INTERNAL EXPERIENCE. This tells us how we are functioning at any one moment.

There are two groups of people: those who externally reference and those who internally reference.

Externally referenced people are more concerned with the impression they make on others.

Internally referenced people are concerned with what something FEELS like. Do I like how it feels or do I want to change?

Internally referenced people want to feel comfortable with themselves.


A helpful exercise—repeat out loud:

I have thoughts and emotions, BUT I am NOT my thoughts and emotions.

My thoughts and emotions are many, contradictory and changing.

Yet, I always remain I, myself, whether in joy or pain, whether calm or annoyed, whether hopeful of despairing.

Since I can observe, dismiss, understand and label my thoughts and emotions, it is evident that they are NOT me.

I am NOT my thoughts and emotions.

I am separate from them!

Relating to Others—people need people!

We all need safe, trusting, reliable, nourishing relationships.

We need nurturing relationships, someone who listens to us and reads between the lines and even challenges us.

Would we exist if NO ONE witnessed our existence?

We need others to check in with and pass the time of day with.

We need to be affected by and to affect others.

Stress—moderate levels of stress keep our minds in condition and help keep us sane.

It keeps our brains plastic so we can adapt and cope with the changes that life brings. It feeds our curiosity and habit of leaning.

Learning gives us more things to think about so we have less time to get bored, depressed and under-stimulated.

What’s Your Story?—personal narrative.

Your autobio tells your story which you live by, but you can edit and change it if you need to.

What do you think is important in life?

We live by our stories!


The definition of Sanity:

You are sane if you do the daily jobs you need to do to take care of yourself and live up to your responsibilities.

You need hopes and dreams.

Do you have a passion, a hobby or interest? You need them for sanity.

The world is our school. We are not alone. We are all in this asylum together!

Are you aware of yourself, your surroundings and circumstances? If you are, you are sane.

You should be able to deal with stressful situations and if you can’t, you should ACCEPT the fact and come to terms with your reality.


Or are you just ECCENTRIC? These are people considered strange. They have strange habits and behavior. But they are usually harmless.

They are NOT insane!

Insanity in humans is characterized by dangerous behavior to themselves and others.


In conclusion:


I hope this blog was helpful.

If and Why–Life’s Game

“Hey Tom, I’m going to play Life’s Game with some “IF” questions followed up by the “WHY”. And I would like you to comment on my answers. Are you up for it?”

“Bring it on, Dave, I’ll try to be objective.”

“Great, here’s the first question:

If I could change some things about my childhood, what would they be and why?”

We both pondered the question for a minute.

“I’ll answer first and then you can comment, Tom.

Two things I would change:

First—I wish I didn’t have to contend with the affliction of clubfeet, which pain aside, affected my personality. Because of early stays in the hospital I developed the attitude of the world being hostile. Plus I couldn’t play sports as well as other kids because my feet and ankles were weak.

Second—I wish my Dad didn’t die when I was 15 and we bonded. My Dad had night work and I hardly saw him so we didn’t do much together. I believe the relationship between father and son has a big impact on what kind of man a boy develops into. A father’s influence is very important when a boy hits puberty, it’s the foundation of the boy’s development. A boy wants to look to his father for clues as to how to act as an adult. When there is no Dad there is a big VOID.

What do you think, Tom?”

“Well Dave, as far as your affliction goes, I think on the plus side, it could be something that could make you a stronger person ready to meet the challenges that life poses.

As to number two, I lost my Dad also as a child. I agree with everything you’ve said, father-son bonding is incredibly important to a boy’s development, I missed that bonding also.”

“Good comments, Tom. Here’s the second question:

If I could have stopped aging at any point in my life up to the present, how old would I remain and why?

I believe there are two ages at which I would want to remain:

First—When I meet my first wife and our courting year. I was 26 and at a low point, I was lonely even though I was living with my mother. Then, out of the blue, I met my first wife on a blind date. We hit it off immediately. We talked and talked, we had wonderful communication. We went everywhere together, movies, museums, restaurants, and walking in parks. I was so happy I actually felt that the world wasn’t hostile anymore!

The second age I would want to remain would be when I met my second wife. I was 61 and had been living alone for four years after my first wife died of cancer. I needed to have a sounding board again and the support of another partner. We met through a dating agency and we got along right away. I didn’t think I could be happy again but it happened and I was floating on air when we held hands.

Comments please.”

“Dave, I too have a tale of two wives and happiness. Everyone should have a healthy, loving relationship with the right person by your side.

You need to have a supportive partner. In a good relationship you and your partner will support each other and treat each other as equals. That feeling of happiness is wonderful.”

“Thanks for that, Tom. Here’s the third question:

If I could suddenly possess an extraordinary talent in one of the arts, what would it be and why?

Even though I have dabbled in writing, I would like to be an extraordinary writer like Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Why? Because I would live on through my classic books. Writing helps heal the wounds of life and clears them out.

Writing also hones your powers of observation, giving you a fuller experience of life.

Comments please.”

“Well Dave, I too dabble in the arts, my interest is dramatics, acting. I love to do plays. I also believe this talent gives you a better experience of life. I enjoy your books and blogs.”

“Thanks, Tom. I would love to see one of your plays.

Here’s the fourth question:

If I was instantly able to play one musical instrument perfectly, what would it be and why?

It would be the piano, because my Dad played classical piano. He was forced to study piano as a child for 7 years even though he wanted to go out and play with his mates. My regret is that he didn’t teach me to play, but like I said, we rarely saw each other. I think playing music would be fun. I still might try to learn the keyboard!”

“Yes, there are many benefits to playing a musical instrument.

It even makes you smarter! Do you believe it? It stimulates your brain and improves memory and reasoning skills. It also relieves stress. But, importantly, playing music is FUN! It makes you feel happy and occupied.”

“Here’s the fifth question:

If I was rich and younger what would be the one thing I would do and why?

I would travel the world. Even though I have seen quite a few states in America plus Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and France, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I would like to see the whole world!

BUT, now at 80, I don’t have the energy, not to mention the money, to travel.

Why, the whole world? Because, as they say, it’s THERE!

I feel traveling provides new experiences and memories, it breaks the routine and allows you to meet people from all cultures.”

“I, too, wish I had traveled more when I had the energy. But we always had to make a living and that took up a lot of time. You also appreciate family and home more when you’ve been away. When you travel to distant places it seems it’s easier to chat to strangers and make new friends. Different social interactions make us happier and we learn a lot too.”


“We will have to do this more often, Tom, it clears the cobwebs when you’re old. Plus it is an excellent medium for revealing some of the truth about yourself.

Tom and Dave walked out under the blue sky feeling that the “IF” questions and their answers had left them feeling good.

Right Thinking Cures “Nerves”

Dateline: August 24th, 2018—I turned 80 today!

“Hey Tom, do you ever feel “nervy”?”

“Oh yes, Dave, it’s fashionable now days to put everything down to “Nerves.”

“When I feel nervous I become a nuisance to myself and everyone else. It’s down to having thought control to get rid of nerves.”

“So Dave, you’re saying people who have learned to control their thinking don’t suffer from nerves.”

“That’s right, Tom, most people who suffer from nerves are worriers.”

“I do tend to see the worst in situations. I am a pessimist at times.”

“The problem is, Tom, we are constantly thinking. And your thinking always comes back to you as a feeling. If you feel bad and nervous you’re thinking negatively. What you need is the WILL to think rightly.”

“So Dave, you’re saying I should strengthen my will power?”

“That’s right, the strong-willed man is the man who can face the battle of right thinking and win. And each time a fight is won the WILL is strengthened.”

“Dave, I’m going to think right and positive right now!”

“That’s the ticket, Tom, remember the way you feel is determined by your thoughts. So guess what: the more attention you put on being nervous, the worse you will feel.”

“That’s food for thought, Dave.”

“Here’s a final thought for you, Tom:

Being upset by your nerves and thoughts is like writing yourself a nasty letter—and then being offended by that letter.”

With that Tom and Dave walked out into the sunshine to face the world calmly.


The Third Age–A Temporary Release From Mortality

“Hey Tom, have you heard of the phrase, “Three Score and Ten”?

“Yes Dave, it’s the Biblical phrase for the span of life.”

“Ha, ha Tom, we’ve got them there, we’re both way past 70!”

“People are living longer now, life span now could be 15 or 20 years past retirement. It’s called the Third Age.”

“Yes Tom, those extra years are a sort of temporary release from mortality.

I love that phrase “release from mortality”.

But instead of rejoicing in thinking what we’re going to do with our extra time, we have turned it into a “fear topic”. Everyone is aging. People are living longer.

Is this a problem?”

“Well Dave, the fear of an increasing older population is that it is seen as a burden on society because resources have to be found to support an aging population.”

“I think we need some definitions here to clear the air.

First Stage of Life—childhood, the era of dependence, immaturity and education.

Second Stage—adulthood, the era of independence, maturity, making a living.

THE THIRD AGE—65+, the era after retirement, personal fulfillment.

The fourth age—the era of final dependence, frailty and death.”

I continued: So, after productive, paid work is finished, society seems to consign elderly people to LIMBO, the condition of oblivion, a place for forgotten and unwanted things.”

“That’s a sad statement, Dave.”

“Yes it is, Tom, but that attitude still prevails. Anything opposite to work is regarded as indolence, avoidance of activity or exertion.’

“So, what’s the answer, Dave?’

“You need hobbies and interests in retirement also some educational opportunities. You need some intellectual development and stimulation.

The inclination to learn continues all through life.”

“That’s right, Tom, that’s why the University of the Third Age was born.

Members want to learn and they can teach as well. There is no division between teacher and the taught: there are no staff and no students, only members. I’ve taken several courses myself and am in a discussion group at present.”


“Tom, I’m going to describe the lives of two oldies, Andy and Annie.

This will show you the stark difference between the Third and Fourth Ages.

Andy, age 87…

He starts his day at the Leisure Centre which means getting up at 5:30. He leaves about 6 and drives to the Centre.

He likes to start the morning with a swim, because it stimulates his brain and gets him thinking.

There’s other pensioners there which provides him with social contact.

He finds dunking himself in water wakes him up and he thinks about what he should be doing that day—emailing, writing, etc.

He’s back home at 7:30 and Betty, his wife, has his breakfast ready.

He then pops into the garden to see that everything is okay.

He deadheads some flowers otherwise new growth won’t come.

He then goes to his office and works on his computer. He writes a monthly column for a local newsletter

He and his wife are quite strong mentally and they never sat back and wondered what they were going to do that day.

He paces himself because he gets tired and then he has a rest.

He goes to bed at 10 PM.

Even though Andy is presumably coming to the end of his life, he is far from being a burden on health and social services as the newspaper headlines state.

He is in the THIRD AGE.


Annie, age 88…

She has had her left hip done. The right hip is going but the doctor won’t let her have it done because she might have a stroke. So she has to put up with it.

Apart from the hip being bad her legs are giving out. She is in pain and is allowed eight pain killers a day.

She sits in her chair most of the day. She doesn’t feel the pain while sitting.

But when she gets up she hardly can walk.

She still reads big print books with a magnifying glass.

She used to have a scooter to get out and about but then things got worse and she couldn’t get it out of the house.

So she is now confined to the house.

She has carers to get her up for breakfast and later a carer gets her a cooked meal. Her sister does her shopping. A carer puts her to bed.

Although Annie is only one year older than Andy her life is quite different. Her health is poor, she is in pain a lot and she rarely goes out of the house. She needs a lot of help

Annie is in the FOURTH AGE.”


“So, Dave, we’ve made it clear that ageing is not simply about decline, dependency and difficulty, it’s also about personal development and living a satisfying life as well.”

“That’s right, Tom, I guess you could say The Third Age is considered to be the “golden years” of adulthood.”

We both pondered on what we had discussed.

“I’ve been thinking, during our discussion, that The Third Age is sort of a paradox, a point in time when older adults experience life and themselves more positively even though cognitive functions undergo slow deterioration and they have aches and pains.”

“There are people that jump back and forth between the Third and Fourth ages.

If someone who was sick gets better they can come back into the Third Age for a while.”

“Tom, in conclusion, I will say:

The patterns of life have changed since people have been living longer.

Lets hope we can stay in the Third Age for a long time.”

With that, Tom and Dave walked out into the sunshine ready to face their future


Maintaining Mental Equilibrium

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be good at living life?

They seem to glide effortlessly through life and they know how to roll with life’s punches. What’s their secret?

It’s no secret, they just know and apply the rules of mental equilibrium.

Lets go through them:

  1. Don’t try to change the unchangeable.

The only influence we really have is over ourselves, so we can only change our mindset, how we respond to our circumstances

  1. Don’t live in the Past, it’s gone!

You can’t change anything that has gone before, so turn your attention to the Here and Now. The only way to live is in the Present, it’s the only life you have.

  1. Don’t live in the Future, it’s not here yet!

Don’t let fear of the future ruin your present. The Here and Now is the moment you must appreciate, it is your Reality.

  1. Stay connected to your Healthy Mental Functioning.

What is it? It’s your Natural state of mind, your common sense, your emotional buoyancy, it’s your ability to adapt to your circumstances, it’s your sense of perspective, your internal equilibrium, your feeling of peace, it’s INNATE!

Sounds like it’s pretty important, doesn’t it?

Your healthy functioning is NOT concerned with what happens in your life. It is concerned with how you relate to what happens.

Your healthy functioning is what makes happiness possible!

  1. Don’t align yourself exclusively with your Thought System.

It is only concerned with how you compare with others, your pursuits, your intellect, your ego gratification. It’s job is to think, compare, contrast and analyse. This is inconsistent with enjoyment.

The difference between your thought system and your healthy mental functioning is:

Your thought system comes up with what “it thinks” would make you happy.

Your healthy functioning is what makes happiness possible.

  1. Every moment in your life is a Choice Point.

Do you think negative or do you rise to the challenge?

Can you direct your thoughts to good, positive thoughts?

It’s your choice!

  1. Live in the Present Moment. It’s the only life you have!

Next time you feel depressed notice where your thoughts are.

They will be in the future or reviewing the past.

BUT, life is Right Now!

You can live in three different time dimensions in your head.

The Past—“WHY” mode, you’re thinking about Why things happened.

The Future—“WHAT IF” mode-Fear of the future.

The Present—This is the only one actual time dimension; the Present.


In conclusion: I hope you remember this blog post because there is a lot of WISDOM in it.

The idea that has helped me let go of the past and future is to understand that:

Life keeps moving forward—it doesn’t care what I think of do, SO I might as well NOT WASTE my time on things I can’t control.

Life keeps moving forward and so WE MUST keep moving forward.

All these rules have ONE GOAL:



Shift Your Perspective and Live In The Present

When will it happen, this sudden shift? It usually comes out of the blue when you face a difficult situation. It is a sort of insight that occurs and from that moment on life looks different.

An important point of a sudden shift in perspective is:

There is no relationship between the “feeling better” aspect of a sudden shift and your external circumstances.

What happens is that you look at the same set of facts in a new way, a different way than you did before. It is a shift in Perspective, not a change in circumstances.

When tough times come in your life, and you can’t change them, what you have to do is change your thinking about the situation to a healthy coping.

So, the bottom line is, nothing has to change in your life in order for you to feel good BUT your thinking!

This leads to our biggest point:

The way you feel is determined by the thoughts you are thinking.

Example—Alice and Ed had been married for 30 years, most of those years were very routine and unsettling, they had arguments and it seemed their love had gone out the window. Then Ed had a diagnosis of terminal cancer and Alice and Ed had a shift in perspective. Their anger faded away and seemed insignificant. They looked at their life differently now and decided to enjoy their present moments.


The average person has approximately 55,000 thoughts entering and leaving the mind every day. Most just come and then are dismissed.

But if we’re in the habit of thinking negatively, these thoughts seem to stick. We have to dismiss them and replace them with good, positive ones.


You need to live in the Present to enjoy life. You can’t be tied to the past of think about a negative future which is what we do when we face a difficult situation that can’t be changed.

When you face a situation you can’t control, you must NOT let fear of the future take away from you’re present.

The present is the only life you have. YOU MUST LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT AND ENJOY IT.

Because that’s the only time you can live.

You waste your life thinking about the past or the future.


Well, when you understand how your thinking works you will dismiss any thoughts you don’t want.

Concentrate on what you are doing in the here and now.

Life is nothing more than a series of present moments to be experienced one after another.

It’s the only life we have so why squander it with distorted thinking?

Present-moment living means you are choosing to pay attention on what’s happening RIGHT NOW; and you enjoy and appreciate just this moment.

Whenever you feel discouraged and frustrated try to notice how DISTANT you are from the present moment, you are not living your life WHEN YOU ARE OUT OF THE MOMENT!

The only peace you will find is right where you are, IN THE PRESENT, the only place you can live.

When you live in the present, you will notice your fear of the future fades away. You see that worrying about the future is a WASTE OF YOUR LIFE!

Your life is more enjoyable living one moment at a time, one day at a time.


So, my friend, the choice is yours, live in the present and enjoy the only life you have.

The past and the future are just thoughts, where as you life is RIGHT NOW!


One last idea I will leave you with and PLEASE remember this at all times:



Our Many Selves

The Tom and Dave discussions continue:

“Hey Tom, guess how many “self” words are in the dictionary?”

“Maybe about 50.”

“Wrong, my friend, there are over 100.”


“It is amazing, the term “self” is very important to us because it refers to our awareness of WHO WE ARE and HOW WE EXPERIENCE OURSELVES within our world. Self is our inner world, the flow of our thoughts, feelings and senses.”

“Dave, what are the parts of Who We Are and Our Experiences?’

“Good question, Tom, lets list them:

There is the Physical part, our body, the vehicle in which we experience life and make contact with the world.

The Emotional part, many emotions are experienced as we journey through life.

The Psychological part, our streams of thoughts, our social contacts.

The Sexual part and the Spiritual part.”

“Wow Dave, that’s a lot of parts!”

“Well Tom, we humans function best when all these parts are in a healthy state and flowing freely.”

“Someone once told me that I have an inspiring persona. What’s that all about?”

“Inspiring! That’s good, Tom. Your persona is the “mask” you put on for the public. Your persona incorporates your best qualities leaving negative traits to form the “Shadow Self.”

“The “Shadow Self”, what’s that?”

“It’s not as scary as it sounds, Tom. Our shadow self includes traits that we dislike or would like to ignore. The shadow self balances the overall psyche.

Where there is light there must be a shadow.”

“Sometimes, Dave, I feel so alone in this world. Why is that?”

“Well, my friend, when you discovered, in childhood, that you were a separate being, that you exist independently of anyone else, it was a sobering experience.

We are isolated in our own consciousness throughout life’s journey.

Hence at times we feel very ALONE.”

“I also feel very vulnerable at times.”

Tom was shaking.

“Relax buddy, we all were born into this world very vulnerable, with no defenses, in fact we didn’t even have a personality at birth.”

“So what happened then?”

“We soon learned that certain behaviors please people and some don’t.

So we form a self called the Controller, which observes our environment and determines which behaviors work best and please the most people. The Controller is an energy system that helps to protect our vulnerability.”

“Dave, these energy systems, do they make us stronger and more powerful?”

“Yes Tom, they make us more powerful in ourselves and that’s when we start to develop our personality.”

“I’m wondering, do we have a set of Power Selves that ensure that we are protected and successful in our lives?”

“Yes, we do Tom, lets list them:

The Power Selves are: The Pusher, The Critic, The Perfectionist, The Pleaser, and The Thinking Self.”

Tom and I pondered the Power Selves.

Then we both stared at the new picture on the pub wall. It was Dali’s “Persistence of Memory or the Melting Clocks. That made us ponder all the more.

After a couple of minutes, I spoke:

“The most important Power Self is The Thinking Self. We are thinking machines, constantly thinking and observing. We have to observe with openness and interest because the MOMENT IS FLEETING, alive only an instant.”

“I know the connection between your thinking and your feeling is formed in a split second and you don’t even realize it’s happening!”

“That’s right Tom, it’s the cause and effect relationship between thoughts and feelings.”

“We all have negative thoughts, now and then, which are distressing, but there is nothing holding negative thoughts in place BUT your thinking.”

“That conjures up the question, if negative feelings are caused by negative thinking, Then what good can it do to overanalyze the negative parts of your life?”

“No good at all! If you spend a lot of time thinking about problems and dwelling on what’s wrong, you will become depressed and your spirits will be low.

Negative thinking fuels the destructive fire.”

“So Dave, what’s the final answer?”

“Keep your Thinking Self in check by NOT thinking about or fearing the future.

Your PRESENT is the ONLY LIFE YOU HAVE. You can only live one day at a time.

Life can be difficult and sometimes you can’t change the difficulty, so you must go through the difficulty and this is all the more reason to live your PRESENT with a peaceful inner feeling, rather than being consumed by your fear of the future.

Today is all there is, so enjoy!

Don’t let anything take away your PRESENT.”

With that, Tom and Dave shook hands, left the building, and went their separate ways.




The Importance Of Hope And Time

“Hey Tom, do you feel us oldies have much hope in the immediate future?”

“Well Dave, it depends on our present situation. If you have some semblance of health and still have energy and the inclination to do things, there is hope for the future, even for an oldie.”

“I think a lot about the past now that I am old.”

“I do too Dave, but they say the PRESENT is the most important time.”

“I guess you’re right, Tom. If you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into this world, and if you are okay with getting nowhere and taking one day at a time and if you can keep from growing surly, bitter and cynical, I guess you have old age licked.”

We both laughed.

“Some people say all the times are important, PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.”

“Why is that, Dave?”

“Well, my friend, although consciousness and reality are always in the PRESENT and the present is the ONLY life you have, the PAST and the FUTURE are also important, because the past influences the present and the future is essential for morale in the present. Your PRESENT would collapse if there was no hope for the FUTURE.”

“Wow, Dave, I never thought of the times like that.”

“Time is very important. It is part of the aging process.”

“Some say we age from the outside and the inside.”

“That’s right Tom, three items make up the universe, matter, energy and time. So aging is the effect of energy on matter over time. Erosion is an example of the outside effect of energy on matter.

But we humans age not only externally but inside as well.”

We both pondered that statement.

“Tell me more, Dave.”

“Inside us are the workings of chemistry, called metabolism which assembles chemical reactions which are needed for life, with one flaw—aging.

These reactions generate trash and waste products over time, called free radicals.”

“Oh boy, Dave, there’s trouble on the horizon!”

“Well Tom, we living creatures suffer wear and tear from external and internal energy. But we do some self-repair, some cells do renew themselves.”

“So, what does it all add up too?”

“It adds up to: Aging = wear and tear – some part repair.”

“Wow, Dave, that’s mind blowing stuff! Lets get back to our discussion on the PRESENT being called the most important time.”

“Well Tom, some say that your experiences in life should be exclusively in the PRESENT, because if they don’t experience in the present they are dwelling in the past and future.”

Tom scratched his head.

“So, Dave, do we need hope to attain our goals?”

“Absolutely Tom, we need to have some hope in the future to sustain our morale in the PRESENT. Hope is a need in itself.”

“Hope is more important than I realized.”

“Hope motivates us to work toward our goals.

Hope maintains morale in the PRESENT.

Hope maintains the immune system, it is the great energizer, we need health to work on our goals.”

“So, hope is looking forward to something and visualizing the future.”

“Yes Tom, now lets turn to the flip side of the coin, Hopelessness.”

“So, now we’re gong to look at the dark side of hope.”

“Hope is fragile, it can be destroyed in an instant. Hopelessness is the belief or knowing that what is desired will NOT be attained. We fear non-attainment.”

“Oh boy, this is getting scary.”

“When we age, the period before death, depression is on the horizon. We oldies may get depressed over diminished mobility, diminished health and diminished abilities and energy.”

“Dave, how do you fight this depression of hopelessness?”

“By becoming resigned to it. You accept the losses of aging. This act dilutes depression to bearable proportions.”

“How do we defend against too much anxiety in the meantime?”

“By simply avoiding thinking about the future and taking one day at a time.”

“Oh Dave, the passing time can be so cruel.”

“Well Tom, lets end this discussion by looking at the Nature of Time.”

“The march of time scares me when I think how relentless it is and we can’t slow it down.”

“Don’t panic, Tom.”

“I’m trying not to, Dave, but look at the clock, the second hand just keeps moving!!!”

“Time is moving forward constantly, a succession of moments that follow one another at the same rate.

We are lodged in time just like we are lodged in our skin. In five years we can count on having aged five years, no matter what we do or don’t do. Time carries us along but it is indifferent to us.”

“Another scary thing about time is that we can’t change what has happened in the past.”

“That’s right Tom, the consequences of an act can be modified sometimes BUT the act itself never can be recalled.”

We stopped talking for a few minutes to absorb all of the discussion points.

“Tom, our lives consist of many days, I’m working on 29,000, but they are fast moving.”

“Dave, the other day I came across a line: “The river of time carries us along through life.”

“It’s true, Tom, when people die they are left behind on the riverbank but the river keeps flowing. They are cast outside of time. They never again will be able to get back into the river.”

“Well Dave, the days will go by and when they are used up (the average is 27,000) we will never again see even one more.

So, the moral is: Enjoy Today, while you have it.”

“I will leave you with two bits of wisdom:

One realizes the importance of time only when there is little of it left.

And, I have discovered the most precious thing on Earth, it is just “Being Alive”.

We must NOT waste a minute of it!”

Tom and Dave left the building to enjoy the day.

Fighting Quiet Desparation


“Tom, do you subscribe to Thoreau’s quote: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation?”

“Yes Dave, I do, but I’ve been fighting it all my life. I’ve been always looking for enjoyable things to do, but when I do find something I never do it.”

“Sad, isn’t it, Tom? My idea of quiet desperation is: our unmet desires, dreams unfulfilled. It’s the robotic movement through life as your dream of adventure is in the background.”

“Oh Dave, that’s a wonderful description.”

“Thank you Tom, I also think people never figure out what they really want to do in life, so they never do it. But you and I have found it, late in life, in our retirement! You with your amateur acting and me with my four books and blogs.”

“Right on Dave, so it’s the fight between heart and mind and our subsequent unhappiness by not listening to both sides.”

“So, how do we try to break out of our quiet desperation? We need to think about our longings and needs for meaning.”

“What are our needs for meaning, Dave?”

“Well Tom, to provide an answer to the longings mentioned, I would say that meaningful lives are lives of ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT in PROJECTS OF WORTH.”

“Wow! Dave, that’s a mouthful. What exactly is active engagement?”

“It’s when someone is so excited about something that they are completely gripped by it, things we are passionate about. You feel alive when you are actively engaged.”

“What projects then would be worthy?”

“Well Tom, I think it’s commitment to something of value that’s the key, such as your amateur acting and my writing. Your acting is enjoyable for you and it brings pleasure to others. My writing gives people information to act upon to live life better. Also, helping others would be a worthwhile project.”

“So Dave, a meaningful life must satisfy two things. First, there must be active engagement and second, it must be involvement in projects of worth.”

“And Tom, I would add, someone who is actively engaged may also lead a meaningless life, if the objects of their involvement are worthless, such as memorizing the dictionary or making hand written copies of War and Peace.”

We both laughed.

“In conclusion, a person asked me the other day: How can life have any meaning or worth if it must come to an END?”

Tom and Dave were silent for a few seconds.

“I answered this serious question: You fail to see that the opposite can also be proposed, if there were no end to life, life would have no value, it is the ever present danger of losing life which helps to bring home to us it’s value.”

Tom and Dave pondered that statement.

“Tom, have you read, The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy?”

“I dabbled in it, Dave, but it’s a big book”

“Well, if you remember, Deep Thought, the super computer, was asked about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Deep Thought’s verdict was “42”!

The builders of the computer were gobsmacked. They had the answer but they didn’t understand it. They didn’t know what it was the answer to.

If you want the right answers you must ask the right questions!”

Tom and Dave left the building vowing to look at the stars tonight.

Meaning Amongst Absurdity

“Hey Tom, have you ever thought about the joke our awareness plays on us?”

“What’s that, Dave?”

“Our superior intellect makes us aware of our inevitable death but we have an intense desire for continued existence and because of our intellect we recognize the futility of that quest.”

“Well Dave, what I want is to create some meaning in my life for as long as I live.”

“Yes Tom, so do I. We live in absurdity so we need some meaning.”

“What do you mean, we live in absurdity?”

“Consider this: Why do we stand in line at the store? To buy food. Why do we buy food? So we can stay alive and healthy. Why stay alive and healthy? So we can work at our jobs. Why work? So we can earn money. Why earn money? So we can buy food. The vicious circle is ABSURD!”

“That’s funny, Dave.”

“Not so funny when you consider how we are like a hamster in a wheel cage. Round and round we go. The whole circle is a meaningless ritual rather than something coherent and self-fulfilling.”

“I guess another example of absurdity would be: We get up to go to work. Four hours later we have lunch. Then back to work. Then go home for supper and sleep.”

“Yes Tom, this cycle goes on Monday through Friday all at the same rhythm. But one fine day the “WHY” of it overcomes us.”

We both pondered for a minute.

“So, the absurdity of routine life hits us like a ton of bricks. What do we do?

We have to provide our own meaning in our lives.”

“What are some of the ways we can provide that meaning?”

“Well Tom, we all want to be happy, and I think there are 4 roads to meaningful lives which would create a happy background for us as an enduring condition.”

“What are the 4 roads, Dave?”

“I will list them and then we can discuss them individually. Helping others, becoming successful, seize the day, and freeing the mind. None of these elements is the last word on life’s meaning but they can be a framework for us to construct a worthwhile life. So Tom, what do you think about helping others as a means to meaning?’

“Well Dave, helping others would allow us to break free of the pointless cycle of eating to live, living to work and working to eat. We could escape the narrow concerns of our own private lives by helping people outside of our private existence. But, I wonder if there is something egotistical about it when helping others becomes a means of helping ourselves feel good.”

“Very good point, Tom. Altruism helps the person being helped and also it benefits the helper.”

“I think helping others is one way to give us a sense of purpose but there are other ways too.”

“ The feel good factor is indicative of a sort of claustrophobic life when a person is wrapped up in their own little world their horizons are restricted. When you help others it’s an escape from this narrow focus, to one which makes us feel good as well as the people we help.”

“Right on Tom, helping others is NOT the end all of the meaning of life itself. But it is tied to it because it’s one of the GOOD things in life.”

We both took a minute to savor our discussion on Helping Others.

“What about our desire to be successful and achieve as an element of the meaning of life?”

“Dave, I think we crave success because we think it will make us happy.”

“I think it goes beyond that, Tom. There are two ways of viewing success, one concentrates on the importance of having done certain things. Man is the sum of his actions.

The other view is becoming a certain kind of person. The outward signs of success are merely the visible evidence of a more important inner transformation.”

“I get it Dave, what matters is the becoming, the development of oneself to its full potential, not the job that goes with it.”

“There is a link between the doing and the becoming. What matters is to become who we become by doing what we do.”

“I think I have it Dave, to develop ourselves through achievement gives us some meaning. If you pursue your passion, no matter what recognition you get, should be seen as a success.”

“So Tom, what about, “living for today”, to give us meaning?”

“You’re talking about “carpe diem”, seize the day, aren’t you?”

“That’s right, my friend, you and I are mortal, we are trapped in the PRESENT and we could die at any moment, so we must try to make the most of our present.”

“The amateur philosopher’s version of seize the day is simple hedonism, party on, the pursuit of pleasure,” said Tom, soberly.

“Tom, if we interpret “living for today” as a call to party continually, then it is an inadequate law to live by, this is NOT the only way to understand what carpe diem means.”

“So Dave, what is the true spirit of carpe diem?”

“What we value in life: relationships, learning, creativity, food, travel, interesting hobbies—the call to seize the day is a call to appreciate these things while we can and not put them off. You don’t have to experience everything now, but we must make every day count.”

“I get it Dave, we don’t want to put off doing today what can be done today.”

“The wisdom of carpe diem is that our TIME is SHORT and we should not squander it. Carpe diem is NOT only about pleasure but having satisfaction in your present.”

Tom and I remained silent for a few minutes pondering what we had discussed.

“Now, my friend, we come to the last element of gaining meaning in your life—freeing your mind and losing yourself. What do you know about that, Tom?”

“Lets see Dave, I think freeing the mind means Chill Out and let go of your ego. This means that the “I” becomes unimportant. Attune yourself to nature and stop thinking so much about things.”

“That’s a good point Tom, but remember what Descartes said: “I think therefore I am”. If this is true then the idea of detaching ourselves from our egos is false, because the self is the most certain feature of reality.”

“So, freeing your mind by losing yourself is NOT a satisfactory way of finding meaning in your life,” said Tom, scratching his head.

“If you stop to think about it, permanently losing a sense of self is otherwise known as Death!”

“Wow, that’s a sobering thought,” said Tom, wide eyed.

“Thinking is good, assessing ideas through rational argument, it is the best way of examining ideas.”

“Well Tom, in conclusion to this discussion, some of the elements we talked about might provide some contentment and satisfaction BUT there is NO last word on the subject.”

“So Dave, we can say that our life can be worthwhile if we have a balance of happiness and concern for others, where time is NOT wasted and we are successful in terms of pursuing our interests.”

“Right on, Tom, the sobering truth is that life is a continuing struggle and time is so fleeting.”

“I’ve often thought of how time flies and it sends shivers up my spine.”

“Well Tom, time carries us from a PAST we cannot revisit to a FUTURE we cannot know. It is the basic experience of our live. Time dictates the direction of travel, trapping us in our PRESENT as it takes us from the PAST to the FUTURE.”

“So Dave, we ask the question, “What’s it all about?” and we see that there are many ways in which life can be meaningful.”

“Well buddy, as a member of the “Oldie Club” I am worn out by this discussion and by the time we learn to make the most of life, the greater part of it is GONE!”

With that, Tom and Dave walked out into the sunshine SMILING.