The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.


on March 12, 2012


What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our duty on this earth? I can’t answer those questions and I suspect that each of us would have a different answer.  For millennia philosophers have struggled with questions such as those.  Socrates (5th century BCE) tells us ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.” The question is: what do we discover when we do examine it?

Aside from the ancient Greek philosophers, others, too, have taken a stab at defining the meaning of life. Mother Teresa made a somewhat all-encompassing attempt in these words:

“Life is beauty , admire it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.”

It’s a good effort except for the fact she does not tell us what our duty is nor what she means by life being a promise.

Walt Whitman zeros in on the duty component.

“Love the earth and sun and animals,

Despise riches, give alms to all who ask.

Stand up for the stupid and crazy . . .

And your flesh shall be a great poem.”

Friedrich Nietzsche’s focus is on how we live: “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”  FDR has something to say about that as well. “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

In a lighter vein  — “Life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint you can on it .” (Dannny Kaye), and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in making a damn fool of  yourself.” (Jonathan Winters).

I once made such an attempt by way of an address to a graduating class.  I omitted words of praise for past accomplishments,  plaudits about venturing forward and making a difference.  Rather, I shared with them some things I think I have learned about life.

About things. There is freedom to be found in not being possessed by possessions and money doesn’t buy class.

About people. Every moment spent being angry, holding  a grudge, robs you of 60 seconds of happiness and the best way to grow is to surround yourself with people smarter than you are.

About life. Whatever else you do, never confuse your career with you life and remember you’re never too old to roll around in the snow.

Adopt two mottos to guide you. Never say “I don’t have time” and never say “See you later.”   If you don’t have time to smell the lilacs they’ll fade before you enjoy their aroma and a hug, a handshake is for today, – later may never come.

Ultimately, I think, we all determine our own meaning of life – our own morals, ethics, behavior. I would like to believe that something about the way I have lived my life will have a ripple effect – that I have made a positive difference, however small, in the life of others.

Julie Rose


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