Monday, April 29, 2013

Seasons of our Life

The last quadrant of my life began this year when I turn 60.  When they were younger, I told my children that a full life, 80 years to be specific, can be divided into four quadrants which makes the game of life.  Explain.

So the first quarter of the game of life encompass the years 1 through 20.  I told my children when they reached those tween-age years, about the time they start to think they are ready for everything but they are not, around the age when they began to range out from home, spending the night with friend, when "all my friends are allowed too",  I would say:  

In the first quadrant of life, the first 20 years of the game, I'm sorry but you may not play.  You may not be a player.  You are too young and the rules of the game forbid anyone, anyone from playing before they reach the age of 20 but, you can watch and if you are smart, you will sit in the bleachers and watch the game from a comfortable distance in the safe company of the elders. Watch the moves, learn the plays, identify the players because all of those same players will all be there playing the same game you will be playing once you reach the age of 20.  That's when You are in the game -  ready or not.  

If you are not smart and think you are ready to play before you are allowed, if you choose to disrespect the time honored rules, you will be misguided, taken advantage of, or worse, abused by older experienced players. For only qualified players are allowed on the playing field and since the qualified players did not leave the field and create the error but that the unqualified imposture came onto the field, so then does the primary error and consequent lessons go to the imposture.  The dangers are real and it is wise to take legitimate rules seriously. 

The game of life is fun, I would say, but not always easy or fair, especially when you are young.  Patience and practice are probably the most difficult and indeed most important challenges you face.

The second quadrant of the game of life are the ages 20 to 40.  Well, now you're in the game. You are a player.  Ready or not - Game On.   

Your childhood was not a complete waste of time and you paid enough attention to the lessons so that the first few years of your play avoids catastrophic defeat.  Here, be sure you are prepared, as best you can be, not only to enjoy the successes of your play but be prepared to endure failures as well.  Truly there will be plenty of both.  For not a happy player there ever was that was free of failure and defeat.  So a resilient constitution and a willingness to learn from your mistakes will always be a favorable asset to your game.  

While you are a player you will find competition everywhere.  Some players are vexed and fervent and play with a zealous disregard for anything but winning and taking the advantage. Some players are the opposite to the other extreme.  They are meek and too easily taken advantage of. Now, it has never been proven beyond any doubt that fair play and good gamesmanship will always advance a player in competition but in the game of life we are the sum total of the choices we make. 

So given the choice between good and evil, fair play or not, the optimist will believe that although the battle is always close and fierce, the ultimate day and the ultimate victory will alway go with favor to good.  But the truth is, though the margin of victory on either side be only a point or two from either side on any given day the unfair side of play can be the victor.  Beware of evil fools and trickery.  Always give your very best what ever you do and you will always enjoy the honest company and comfort of your self.

Well now you are at mid point in the game of life - halftime - midlife.   The third quadrant.  Now you are 40. You have played your game. You have some wins, you have some losses.  But now, most importantly, you have experience.  You know the game.  First you watched it for 20 years.  Then you played for twenty years.  You know the game.  So from 40 to 60 it's only fitting that now you coach, you advise, consult, referee, inspire, nudge, mentor, and generally be helpful to ensure the field is clean and clear for play and players.  Now your part in the game is about responsibility and the power, be it large or small, that you have earned for your self.  

Here, I have some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that at about this point in life, starting at about 40, you begin to notice professionals and people you have just met, even perfect strangers, treating you just a little differently;  with a type of natural respect you could not have garnered earlier in the game.  Also by 40, you have begrudgingly accepted without protest, a 'yes sir' or 'no mam' reply from a younger person. My god, that's the good news

The bad news is, soon you will notice your fine 20-20 vision failing to read the smallest print when in the day you could have read it easily in the dark or while walking to class.  And your grip.  Just not what it use to be. 

But, you are still in the game and the third quarter is actually quite nice.  Ambitions and rewards start to morph. Priorities start to change, memories suffice and trying to see over the horizon now seems more important than ever.  Your future health is all of a sudden an issue or should be if it's not and all the poor abuse we heaved onto and into our young, innocent, strong and beautiful bodies threatens now to come back and punish us.  Oh the shame. Oh the regrets.  

Somewhere between 40 and 60 the rhythm of life makes sounds you can now finally hear. It's never too late, still works but it is starting to sound more like a little white lie.  The years 40 to 60 is the time in life when reputations are fortified with or without your own help and careful is preferable to carefree. Setting a good example weighs more and relaxation or stretching before you exercise is starting to make much better sense.  You are no longer on the field but the fabric of your character plays into the game - and you know it. 

And then you are 60 and enter the last quadrant of life - 20 more years.  Back in the bleachers, safely watching over the young, explaining the game, pointing out the moves.  Words like glide-path, old man and gracefully surrendering the things of youth creep into your deep thoughts and personal vocabulary. But it is another new beginning, a new quadrant, far from over and only fitting that the last be the best.  Now being known for wisdom and sound advise feels good like the sound of a new baby's laughter.

Your vantage over the game from here has never been so good. Antithetical designs on fair play and honesty are unabashedly clear and easy for you to see. The truth of the matter is known to you more often now than not.  It's harder to fool you, yet all the while, and for all your age and wisdom is worth, in the game of life you are again as vulnerable in the last quadrant as you were in the first. 

So through it all the game of life is played over and over and over again for each and everyone of us from time immemorial to eternity. 
Work hard. Play well. Be happy and I hope you win. 

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