The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Psychology ...

Here’s a quick blog thought for when you’re feeling blue — perhaps the December blues, when “the holiday season” is getting on your nerves and the cold and early darkness is starting to bring you down.

Or let’s say that your life seems disappointing, because the great dreams and promises of your youth just didn’t come to pass . . . There’s an article in this months Atlantic about the “U” shaped curve of life satisfaction. According to various studies and interpretations of those studies, we are generally pretty happy with our lives as children and in our early adulthood, then things go downhill until bottoming out in our mid to late 40s. We hit bottom, but things start seeming better to us in our 50s and better still in our 60s and 70s.

So maybe you’re now 46 years old and don’t feel very optimistic, maybe you are fighting off a mid-life crisis. Or maybe you’re like me, having gotten thru my 40s, 50s and 60s without any great crisis, but still wondering just when that upward trend is going to kick-in.

Let’s say that you wonder every now and then, was it all worth it . . . was I nothing but another little spec of dust, another sad life, ultimately insignificant . . . .

Well, there are various cures for this, including booze, spiritual nostrums, anti-depressants, and friends (real friends, that is, not the Facebook kind). And maybe also family (if they don’t make you feel even worse, which they sometimes do) . . .

But here’s another thought — this one is from the perspective of “Big History“. (Recall that I just finished listening to the Teaching Company lectures on Big History by Prof. David Christian). To have the thought that I’m referring to, think about the vast scales of the Universe since the Big Bang; consider the vastness of space, the 13+ billions of years, all the gadzillions of swirling particles of energy and dust . . .

And yet, in only a tiny, tiny fragment of it all, and for just a tiny fraction of time, has life as we know it emerged. And in just a tiny fraction of that life, has self-aware, self-conscious, emotionally sentient life (such as the human race) happened.

This (hopefully) makes one realize that we human beings are a tiny but extremely rare and privileged portion of creation. We soak in tremendous levels of information, levels entirely unavailable to 99.9999999% of the universe. We experience things that just cannot be experienced by most of what’s out there. Yes, little old us . . .

So each one of us is special and extremely privileged to have experienced the honor of being a conscious human being. If you catch my drift, you might then see that it’s really pushing things to get so upset about the fact that we weren’t on top of the human list, that other humans may have done this or that better than we did. So Beyonce, the Dali Lama, Kim Kardashian, Paul Krugman, LeBron James and Hilary Clinton are in the news and on the screen, and you are not. So what. It’s like sniggling about a 0.000000000000000001% cut of the cake, after getting 99.9999999999999999% on your plate. We’re quibbling over crumbs here, in the grand scheme of things. Really, Lady Gaga and Aaron Rodgers and Ted Cruz are ultimately just crumbs . . . and just like crumbs, celebs get stale very quickly.

Does that help? Well, go out and look at the stars (not the Kardashian kind) . . . and remember that you can see those stars, but they can’t see you. They don’t see nothing. The bits of matter and energy that came together to form you are very blessed pieces of the universe, as they have the opportunity to look out and see the rest of creation. So enjoy it and make the best of it! And have a wonderful “Holiday Season” and “Happy New Year” after all. It’s your celestial mission!!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:26 pm      

  1. Jim, I guess what you say is one way of looking at the holidays. But this year I find myself wondering if most of the “down” feeling of the holidays doesn’t come mostly from the expectation forced on everyone by the advertisements that *insist* we have Happy Holidays; the advertisements then insist that the only way to be happy is to give/get $500+ gifts, numerous ones. This expectation is for the good of those who are selling whatever rather than for either the ones buying or getting the gifts.

    (The recent rash of “smash and grab robberies”, at least in the area I live, seems to have made people desperate for “things” and outraged that they don’t have the money for the “things”.)

    Then I find myself wondering why it is that all the retailers are disappointed in the fact that starting “Black Friday” a month before the actual Friday after Thanksgiving did not produce a ton of “more money” for the retailers. (People only have so much discretionary income; they either spend it in a short period of time or extend the period of time. A DUH to my way of thinking, and I wonder why it is retailers can’t think of it themselves.)

    Then too: Maybe for some people life follows a “‘U’ shaped curve of satisfaction”, but I have not found it so. Some decades have been good; some not so good. For a lot of people the later decades of life (say 80 and beyond) may not be the best; at this point I can attest to the fact that the decade of the 80s is not starting out too well; time will tell one way or the other—as if I really will be around 15 years from now! For others I’ve known, the various decades were different. Seems to me each person’s life follows its own pattern.

    I am not sure I can agree with you about those who are famous and well known being “on top of the human list”. I don’t regard myself (who when it comes to “famous” am on the bottom of said list) as being a “less good” person than those who are famous. I’m as good as I’ve tried to be—perhaps would be rated “very good” in some aspects of life and “poor” in others. Seems to me it’s the human condition.

    I find myself back to where I started: Thinking that if it were not for all the advertisements telling us what we can get on sale that will make us happy, I just might be perfectly happy. Social expectations, familial expectations, i.e., the *expectations* are most of what contributes to the “down” feeling some people (more people than one might think?) may have.

    Then too, I wonder if come the 21st of the year, the gradually increasing light won’t help the entire situation a whole bunch.

    So, as you say: Taking a look at the beauty of the stars would be a good step in the right direction of feeling better about the coming holidays. Get one’s mind off oneself and on to something outside oneself. A good idea. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — December 17, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

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