Sunday, October 4, 2009

Turning 60

I made it to 60. A few thousand years ago, I would be considered ancient. At least the tribal young would seek me out for advice. To tell the truth, I really don't feel any different than I did at 30 or 40. Could be age delusion, I realize. Well, 60 is no longer considered ancient, and there are no lines of people waiting to hear my pearls of wisdom. But, Kat did ask me what I've learned in my six decades on this planet. At first, I didn't think I had anything earth-shaking to share, but after a few days, the question kept tapping on my mind, so here it is, for whatever it is worth.

  • This planet is incredible. Experiencing the awesome wonders of nature is a spiritual journey for me. One doesn't have to travel to exotic locations to appreciate the exquisite interactions of the variety of organisms; just take a look around!
  • We work too hard. In light of my first observation, we spend far too much of our waking hours unable to appreciate life in the fullest. Whoever decided that people must spend so much time at work must have been the recipient of the fruits of working people's labor. I've thought about it quite a lot. We definitely need more time to enjoy life, our friends and family, the wonders of Earth, and to rest; to do what makes us happy. And although my career has been fulfilling in many ways, it has not allowed me (or my students, come to think of it) enough time to just have fun.
  • Teaching is not only an honorable profession, it is not easy. Not everyone can do it, and in some cases, there are some teachers who can't do it very well. But bless 'em for trying. Most professionals that deal with people do it one person at a time, and they wouldn't last long in a classroom full of teenagers. Would I do it again if I had to do it all over again? Absolutely not! But it was the culmination of choices I made, and I am continually learning, usually from my students.
  • There are an awful lot of hypocrites in the world. Always have been, probably always will be. I blame a lot of it on religion. It amazes me how many people I've met who are so self-righteous and who say one thing but do another.
  • Science doesn't have all the answers, but what it does have should be paid attention to. If scientists have built up evidence for something over years of painstaking empirical research, then we have to accept it. For anyone who has any doubt about the truth of such overwhelming evidence for things like climate change or evolution, they either aren't willing to take a good look, or they have simply decided to ignore it if it clashes with their personal belief systems. You can't have it both ways: If you accept medical advice built on research, then accept the rest of scientific findings. And, by the way, a scientific theory is not a guess, as in our everyday use of the word. It is an explanation for a phenomenon that has solid evidence to back it up, and has not yet been proven wrong.
  • There are too many people in the world. Not only are there not enough resources to go around, we aren't using them wisely. People need to stop having so many babies. It isn't necessary. Adopt! There are lots of kids who need a home. My experience is that an adopted child is every bit as loved as a biological one.
  • The two most damaging ideas we hold are: 1. That we need so much "stuff." We don't. Simplifying one's life brings greater harmony to each of us and to the planet; and 2. That we can't do without credit. Credit cards are big business's way of keeping us beholden to them. Get rid of them if you can, and return to a simpler way of life.
  • I love Kat's aspiration, written during her high school years when most of her peers were writing about making a lot of money. She said, "I want to be able to tell a story, and have someone to tell it to." Those are words that a 60 year old should say, and I wish I had, but I don't mind borrowing, because it is a great message. So, let's build those stories, and share them!
There you have it. Tune in when I'm 70 and see if I've learned anything new.


Awakr said...

As a new husband to a Thai wife (recent secular marriage, rod nam next 28th in Bangkok), although I live close to Rome, Italy I enjoy your blog and share many of your observations on Thais and life in general. Good points. Welcome to the over 60's. Happy birthday, Carlo

John Stiles said...

Thanks for the message, Carlo. When you are next in Krungthep, let me know!

grammie said...

Ok, John..I must say I saw your post saying "ex-patriot" and I must say that stuck with me. I am pondering that thought at the moment..ex...meaning, you "belonged" to something or "were" something and now you don't or are not any longer. Like ex-husband, or ex-marine..or ex-foliated..:). Would that also mean..ex-maid-rite..ex-maytag park, ex-cardinal..?? When you say you are an "ex" something how deep does that extend...I think you said..that you would enjoy comments on your I am not challenging what you think...but, more trying to understand..why...

John Stiles said...

Good question, Kris. Expatriate simply means "not living in one's country of birth, or citizenship." It isn't the end of anything, like I can't go back! it isn't "expatriot" which implies that one has rejected his or her country: it just means I'm not there now. It is a term used to describe any person living in another country. It would be something like moving from Newton, Iowa to New York. You're just in a different locale. There are lots of "expatriated" people living abroad. They (and I) tell those who inquire, that they are "American" or "Canadian" or "Indian."

Joyce said...

Congratulations on the milestone, John! You have words of wisdom indeed!!... as well as many students who are listening (and in this case reading)!

I will verify that definition of ex-patriot, remembering a bit of Latin and linguistics.
"Ex"= away/out ; "patria"= country/fatherland "ot"=suffix to denote a person who bears the properties of the root word.
Ex-patriot= a person who is out of or away from their country/fatherland.

It's true that nowadays the term ex-patriot has a more negative connotation, for the reasons which Kris explained. For many people, the prefix "ex" has taken on the meaning of "former"- but I'm not sure if this derivative applies in every situation.

Anyhow- since this is the spot for comments- may I do so and respond to your great words of wisdom and 60 years worth of profundities?! I couldn't agree more with your points! Here's what they made me think of:

1. This planet is indeed incredible.
Yes! We need to cultivate eyes with which to see it!

2. We work too hard.
Yes! Many people are taught to derive their identity and sense of worth from their work/what they do. They work hard to "prove their worth" and compete with others to feed their egos. Many others are forced to work too hard by the oppressive system of our world's economy. They are exploited and have either no knowledge or no opportunity to advance in the system and achieve financial freedom and independence. Pride, greed and envy are at the roots of this problem of overwork, I believe.

3. Teaching is not easy. Amen! It requires so much patience, adaptability, and insight into the subject. Good teachers also need intuition that can gauge how the material presented is being processed and make adjustments to their plans accordingly . I think the best teacher is one who is a great listener and communicator- able to simplify what is complex and expand what is simple.

Joyce said...

4. Too many hypocrites. Religion is at fault.
Yes. This is my biggest frustration and pet-peeve in life! There's something wrong with people in general- and we rarely want to admit it or get help and change. So instead, we point our vindictive index fingers at others, (while all along, the three remaining fingers are pointing back at ourselves). I must confess, I've been guilty of this- I'm far too critical- my greatest weakness I suppose. God help!

5. Science doesn't have all the answers but accept what it has!
Yes, yes, yes! I think many people have an either/or approach in determining how they will view the world. The trend of thought nowadays seems to be that spiritual faith and the metaphysical realm contradicts or opposes scientific logic and the physical realm. This is not the case at all; but it would be interesting to know how this thinking came about, given the fact that at one time- during the enlightenment and later when educational insitutions were being created- it was recognized that there was a unity in all the disciplines of art, mathematics, music, science and theology. I'm thinking now that perhaps that is the essence of the word: "University" (yep- dictionary cites Latin definition to mean "a whole" "totality" "corporate body"). It was understood that there was one ultimate source of reason with multitudinous ways of expression. Discovering the unity, order and harmony of the universe is, I think, the most fulfilling thing a person can do... and it brings greater pleasure and meaning to life.

6. Too many people in the world. Stop having babies. Adopt.
Hmm, I can see your point, certainly on adoption and yet... I still want my own if I can have one! I think it's important to add more good people to the gene pool... and I'm assuming/praying mine will be good! (LOL!) Who knows, maybe I'll give birth to someone who will help to constructively solve the aforementioned problems. It would be my honor to provide that birth, upbringing and training. I'm not going to go out and force this issue, however. I can wait. The world may even have changed for the better by the time my child's born!

7. Damaging ideas: Too much stuff. Need credit.
Yes! This mentality is propagated especially by capitalistic economies of competition and hierarchical social and class systems. Have "only the best" , keep up with the Joneses, buy the latest and greatest, and the "live beyond your means" mentality is benefiting a select few of crafty billionaires and world leaders.

8. Kat's quote from high school is absolutely wonderful and so inspiring! I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to get to know her in IA before she moved. She's must be amazing. May we all find such noble purposes and thoughts... and the people with which to share them!

John Stiles said...

Wow! Thanks for the input, Joyce! Thoughtful words indeed. I appreciate the feedback.