Fifteen reminders

When one approaches retirement, the desire to communicate life’s lessons to one’s children tends to grow in proportion to their own increasing wish to be left alone to design their own lives.  I suppose it is as it should be, for the problems our children will face are not necessarily going to be the same ones we have tried to solve in our time.  We cannot preach to them; we can only whisper reminders to them.

Sometime ago, while feeling thoughtful and sentimental, I compiled a list of reminders that I would like my children to keep as they make their way through life.  I intended them as a sequel to an earlier piece I wrote on virtues for a new world (PDI, 09/10/00).  They are things I wish someone had whispered to me when I was young.  Here, on the advent of a new year, I would like to share them, for whatever they are worth, with the many young people who read this column.

I have gleaned many of these from my own experiences as well as from a lifelong engagement with philosophy and sociology.  None of them is original; I am sure others have expressed them before in more eloquent ways.

In the light of the tragic events that have marked the closing days of the past year — the large scale deaths caused by the recent killer tsunamis that swept Asia, and the landslides that hit Quezon, Aurora, and Nueva Ecija – these reflections may seem inward-looking and uncaring, but it is only because they are focused on a different type of concerns.  The quest for private perfection need not clash with the demands of social solidarity.

They may also seem unrepentantly secular insofar as they make no reference to the supernatural, but I like to think they are not at odds with the spiritual.  Here they are:

  1. Though our lives may be limited by circumstances not chosen by us, we nevertheless make choices all the time. Doing nothing, letting events dictate our lives, is also a choice.  Be mindful of the choices you make.  Do not abandon your actions; answer for them.
  2. It is necessary to look after our selves. Try to look good always so you don’t add to the world’s gloominess.  But do not forget that you also have a duty to live well with others.  Give cheer, offer solidarity. Never be the cause of another person’s humiliation.
  3. Take care of your body, listen to its needs. It works in powerful ways, but it is not infinite in its capacities.
  4. We each have our goals, big and small. Our goals are a mirror of our values.  Always be conscious of what your goals are, and what it takes to achieve them.  Do not hesitate to review and revise them by going back to the context that gave rise to them.
  5. Living is essentially problem-solving. The solutions that work are often formulated from new ways of looking and describing. Observe how others look at life.  Read and expand your moral vocabulary. Re-describe your life.
  6. To understand a thing, science says, is to measure it against a standard. It is also to comprehend the context from which it sprang, and to know its uses.  But remember: not everything is worth knowing.
  7. Everyone has values. We acquire these in the course of our lives. Make sure your values serve you well; treat them as your “personal defense and necessity.”  Once you’ve settled on your values, live by them relentlessly.
  8. The main purpose of living is to turn yourself into a beautiful and strong human being, a worthy link in the chain of generations. Each one of us is given a chance to be an artist: our selves are our first raw material.
  9. Too often we become the slave of habit. Take time to pause and be silent, so that you can hear the voice of the inner self that may be struggling to free itself from mindless and debilitating routine.
  10. There is no sure-fire formula for achieving anything. Armed with knowledge, you may also draw strength from having a lot of hope.
  11. Live without resentment and guilt.
  12. Love unconditionally and without expectation.
  13. Be mindful of the world around you, and learn from Nature.
  14. See clearly and act with grace.
  15. Face each day with cheer.

Happy New Year!

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