The Greatest Life Lesson: Life is Transitory

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomOne of the greatest gifts of getting older is wisdom. Life’s journey, that inevitably traverses through the steepest hills and deepest valleys, eventually leads you to a plateau that is high enough for you to look back and reflect on it — to appreciate its point of origin and its meaning. And if you turn around and look ahead, it shows you a horizon that is wide enough that allows you to see the real possibilities. It is from this perspective, that one of life’s great lessons becomes crystal clear: life is transitory, ephemeral. In youth, we tend to think that some of life’s great moments or stages in one’s life are permanent; that they will last forever — or perhaps if not forever, it will be for a very long time that seems like forever. But as you get older, you realize that life is played out over decades and not days, like a massive ball of beads that is rolled out, each bead separated by a thin strand of twine, each representing a moment in time, each presenting something joyful or painful, happy or sad. So in youth, we obsess over each bead or group of beads, oblivious to the beads that will come after; but in middle-age and beyond, we view really large sections — hundreds, perhaps thousands of beads — at a time; mindful of the beads that come before and after those sections. To put this another way, life at any particular time in one’s life is not a moment, but a clip from a very long movie. Knowledge of this is what gives us hope and perseverance, to move forward to the next frame, to the next scene, especially if we want to move from the shadow to the light.

American poet, Carl Sandburg, was very much aware of this life lesson when he wrote the poem titled “The People, Yes” published in 1936. It was written in the midst of America’s Great Depression in the hope that it would inspire people to persevere through extremely challenging times. One of the greatest life lessons is buried inside the 300-page poem, told as a story about a king that wanted an inscription that would stand the test of time:

And the king wanted an inscription
good for a thousand years and after
that to the end of the world?
“Yes, precisely so.”
“Something so true and awful that no
matter what happened it would stand?”
“Yes, exactly that.”
“Something no matter who spit on it or
Laughed at it there it would stand
And nothing would change it?”
“Yes, that was what the king ordered
his wise men to write.”
“And what did they write?”
“Five words: This too shall pass away.”

Five simple words: “This too shall pass away.” May it provide some solace and inspiration as you walk through the darkest valleys of your life journey. Remember it always; and be sure to share it with a friend in need.

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