nifty fifty

When I turned 40 years old, I wrote a short series of four posts to try to sum up the four most important lessons I’d learned to that point. For most of the past decade, I thought I’d do the same at 50. I certainly have learned a lot – far more than I expected – and I assumed that I’d have no problem churning out the “five-for-fifty” posts to sum up my life’s lessons. I even imagined myself getting to 6-for-60 and 7-for-70, as I feel confident that the older you get, the more you have to say about life.

But all those lessons started to feel overwhelming (to read, not to write), so I recently began to think that I should concentrate on the one most important lesson. And that would be about the one most important topic, which is of course love.

Someday I’ll write about that, but this isn’t the day for it, this isn’t the time for it. This is 2020, and a half-century in, I can finally see that despite anyone’s fondest dreams, the cynics and the bruised romantics were always right: Love is not enough.

My home is on fire. We are like bacteria in a bottle, blindly exhausting all the available resources in our ecosystem. More and more people believe that the end is nigh. And that’s just the obvious future. In the terrible present, we are battered black and blue by our failure to bring about a just society. Amoral tech leaders fail over and over again to actually build socially beneficial products that are worthy of their position of power. The ruin of the fourth estate has led to idiocracy. What is the lesson that I should try to deliver when my half-century on the planet has me wondering if any eventual grandchild of mine could reasonably hope to see the same age?

The lesson is this: You can be at peace while still fighting.

I am stunned to discover that I’m at peace in a way that I never believed was possible for me, or for anyone. I am not confused about my place in the world. I’m not angry all the time; no grievances torture my heart. I know what I want to make of the remaining time that I have. I know how to give and receive love, I know the power of kindness.

It remains true that I react in anger with some frequency. I’m not as kind as I’d like to be. I do still have a low opinion of people who I believe to have wronged me, and I’m quite sure that there are people with a similarly low opinion of me – and I agree with that assessment at times. I don’t know exactly whether or how I will accomplish the things I dream of today.

But still, I find that my dreams are bigger than they’ve ever been. I know that I’m going to have to fight for what I believe in, and I love that because I’ll never stop fighting.

Your mileage may vary, but the road is there if you want to take it. True peace in your heart is available for anyone. But the fight for a world worth living in will always be everyone’s to fight. I worried that peace and serenity in my heart would mean less fire in my belly, but now I realize that the fire doesn’t come from me.