As I deal with old age, one thing stands out above everything else – and that is the state of my soul. Am I living authentically? Do I speak the truth at every turn? Am I strictly following the dictates of my inner self?
I’ve also been thinking a lot about work, and I ask myself if I am behaving appropriately when I write stories about certain companies and organizations whose histories sometimes reveal the possibility of ties with other companies and organizations I believe are unethical.
These are some of the thoughts I frequently examine more than ever in this stage of old age at 68.
This kind of self-examination extends into politics, friendships, and interactions with strangers and acquaintances. I ask, for instance, how anyone can be a Republican, a party that seems hell bent on not supporting the poor and disadvantaged and has a seemingly large contingent of intolerant members. I ask how anyone can support 45 and his big lie. I ask why many folks are still not getting vaccinated. And, of course, I ask how anyone in their right mind can support Russia.
Then I also ask how we too became responsible for killing civilians during war conflicts. Read this heartbreaking story
about U.S. drone pilots for instance and the struggles they endure. It will make you understand how we are far from perfect as well. The military industrial complex is just that – complex and, of course, evil in many ways. War is enveloped in fog and profiteering that puts a blanket on truth.
None of us are perfect – but some are more perfect than others. I have seen an awful lot of unethical behavior in business dealings over my entire life, and I am by no means perfect. But now, in old age, my focus is straight on congruent with the desires of my soul and hopefully doing work that generates at least a modicum of support for the greater good. We all have regrets, and I have many more that I won’t get into here, except to say that if you examine your regrets closely enough and admit to them, they can help you become a better person.
And then surrounding all this thinking is the feeling that humanity is spiraling out of control – that we are destroying ourselves not just through war but in our inability to fix climate change. Surely there is plenty of good in the world, but it surely seems to be losing ground these days – and all the arrows seem to be pointing toward more evil destruction on so many levels. And then, finally, I ask myself the most important question of them all – am I doing enough?
All this thinking reminds me of my paternal grandfather. When he was in his seventies and getting closer to the end of his life, he would attend two early morning masses every weekday at the local Catholic church. I remember this because I was an altar boy for many of those masses and I would see him kneeling there in a pew. Was he doing that to atone for past mistakes, as a means to seek forgiveness? Was he doing it to simply pray for goodness in the world? I don’t know. Am I similar, but just not physically attending mass every morning? Are my feelings the result of growing up in a Catholic-guilt environment?
Now as I come closer to the big seven/0, each morning and evening I contemplate what’s going on in my life and in the world around me and ask myself if I’m doing the right thing. My answer: not quite fully yet. There’s always room for improvement. Contemplation, if done honestly, will take you on a journey that is not easy to accept, but it will lead you to the truth that lies within you, perhaps hidden until now in your old age. Better late than never!
Truth guides everything. Deviating from the truth leads to all that is bad in our world. History repeats this over and over and over – and we are seeing it now in Ukraine. I’ve been following the news about the war closely, and other than knowing Putin is responsible and must be held accountable for what he was wrought, it’s very hard to discern what’s really going on as conflicting reports come from all sorts of media directions.
I do hope the Ukrainians are holding their own and in some instances winning, as the media portrays, but it sure doesn’t look like it when you see all the bombardments. And everyone keeps saying the same thing over and over again, while more innocent people perish or become dramatically displaced. It’s absurd that we can supply the Ukrainians with weapons, but we can’t go in there and manage the sky. We’ve always overestimated the corrupt and inefficient Russians. It seems we can end this war without Putin pressing the button, which would ultimately mean killing himself and everyone else surrounding him.
Why can’t we operate on one simple truth instead of politics and worrying whether Putin would be the catalyst for worldwide destruction? Innocent people are being brutalized and NATO countries must go in there and stop it. That would be the soulful response. But being soulful is said to be the pretext for WW III and the end of civilization. Think about the irony of that and how it makes hope such a weak emotion.
Is truth and freedom worth dying for? Should we risk the annihilation of a large portion of humanity in honor of truth and freedom? Is that where we are at this time in history? Are we at a riskier time than ever in the past?
I was nine years old during the Cuban missile crisis, and I remember the school air raid drills from that time, hiding beneath our desks like that would protect us. It seems we are at an unprecedented new level of this kind of fear, and there is one man among 8 billion who can stop it – not some God we cannot see. To say this does not mean I do not believe in some kind of divine entity or entities. What I do believe is that there is nothing that can stop evil other than our strong human selves. A divine entity or entities leaves everything up to our free wills and chance – that is the mysterious nature of our being, in my opinion.
If you believe in a better afterlife, then risking your life for truth and your country’s freedom is at least the honorable and brave thing to do, which is emblematic of the brave Ukrainians and their president who states he is not a hero but just a normal, family-and-freedom-loving human being. If the rest of the world were like these brave people, evil would lose very quickly. It’s like the bully who runs away after being confronted with a direct blow to his throat or private parts.
In other words, there should be no holding back to stop Putin. The risk should not be avoided because there will not be a divine intervention to stop the unnecessary deaths, and the longer this war lasts, the worse it is going to get. So, let’s get it over with and do the right thing now – let’s put a stop to the killing of innocents now, not when the tally of innocent deaths reaches unfathomable proportions in which we (the U.S. and its NATO partners) become forced to escalate our involvement. Are we delaying the inevitable, waiting for more deaths? It sure seems that way.
And those NATO countries who are waffling in their support for the Ukraine – especially Hungary who has agreed to pay Russia in rubles – should be kicked out of NATO. And politicians like Le Pen in France must be voted out dramatically and kicked out as well.
Some of the experts on international politics say that perhaps a cease fire or withdrawal can be brokered if the U.S. acquiesces to supporting the non-proliferation of NATO countries. In other words, even those countries whose majority populace favor joining NATO, like the Ukraine, should pull back and remain independent of NATO. That idea takes away a nation’s sovereignty to do what it thinks is in its best interest. We are now seeing that just entertaining joining NATO has dire consequences imposed on it by a madman – therefore, the inhumane madman must be stopped at all costs because in the end over time it will be riskier not to.
But all this is easy for me to say, not do. What if I were a U.S. citizen in his twenties drafted to fight in the Ukrainian war? Would I go without hesitation? I’m not sure, but I do feel this is a much different situation than what we experienced in Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya.
Meanwhile, getting back to work – all the televised trauma and foreboding prognostications has made me anxious, which I’m sure is not unusual in the least for many if not most of us. How do we overcome the anxiety that seems to be more prevalent than ever, especially when you throw in all we have been dealing with regarding the pandemic? Mindfulness, Stoicism, and practicing some form of purposeful action that supports Ukrainians …
The first two are easy …
“When in doubt, do something.” – Harry Chapin