Turn, Turn, Turn

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Sometime two or three years ago, my kids tinkered with MySpace, and shortly afterwards moved to Facebook in a peer migration. The curious father, I set up an account to see what evil lurked in the heart of men (well, stalkers and such) and found... a plain, boring webpage without obvious tweaks, gizmo's, dials or interesting content. There was zero appeal, and I left it to fend for itself in cyberspace.

As Howard Schnellenberger said when he was introduced as the Head Football Coach: "The University of Louisville is on a collision course with the National Championship. The only variable is time."

Well, just add time. Over the last several months, Facebook has grown into something that it wasn't before: relevant. Never mind the teenagers or the adults who read over their shoulders, the site's purpose is social networking. Thereby, I've seen friends from high school, college, church, and work find their way to this platform, and we've reconnected in measures from polite regards to life recaps. It's been interesting in a number of ways, for which I'm grateful.

The clearest benefit is that it can be a means of having conversations that otherwise would not have taken by other means. To the point, following is quote from a friend, who is approaching empty nest status:

"If anything I'm bored. You know you get in your 40s and your kids are basically all but grown. They have been the focus of your life for so many years, and now they don't really need you much anymore. It really hits you when one is off to college and you know the other one is not far behind. You'll see.

Now it is what to do with the rest of your life. Its kind of exciting and I am looking forward to parts of it. But, wow, what happened to all those years. It doesn't seem like long ago when we were in college."

Not to elevate that description to something it is not, but "mid-life crisis" is hardly something new or unexpected. Middle age has been approaching steadily and speedily, fully recognized for what it is and often joked about. Harley Davidsons, divorcing a spouse for a "younger model," cosmetic surgery, a career or home change... the consequences of this "crisis" can be as serious as 1-800-lawyers or as laughable as the tabloid news.

Unwelcome terms aside, there's a recognition that there are, in fact, fewer number of years remaining during which good health (theoretically) can be anticipated and that there is a sense of acceleration to that point in time at which "the possibilities" are no longer an option.

Reflection on this stage of life leads to a question that many will ask, followed by another that as many prefer to avoid.

The first is a question of Significance. After kids leave home, where (else) do we find this? In our work? In our art? In our hobbies? In our football team's W-L record? There are numerous answers to this question, varying with each person. Significance may be found in writing a book or music that lasts beyond one's lifetime, or in the associated fame. It may be an investment of one's time and resources to others in need. It may be to drive across the nation (and back?) in a Winnebago.

What significance is not is amusements. As much as I may like "It's a Wonderful Life," a Clemson football game, or i-Phone applications, these are but enjoyable diversions. It's not the stuff that one reflects upon as "a life well lived."

It seems to me that significance is found most often in relationships. If relationships are not maintained, they falter. It's entropy all over again - relationships tend to disorder unless energy is returned to the system. The things that please (or hurt) us the most are our interactions with others. A friend is significant. It's not a surprise, then, that Facebook is intergenerational. It's an amazingly efficient entropy remedy.

The second question is the foundation (or stumbling block) upon which the question of Significance is built. What is our Purpose? What is the meaning of life? It would be very interesting, if not enlightening, to learn how Americans would answer this. The pursuit of wealth? A happy retirement by a lake with a boat? To survive by whatever means possible?

Insert your own answer. Then ask yourself if your Purpose has any Significance apart from the eternal. We don't like the prospect of ultimate accountability; it's much easier to strive for happiness and put off the tough question for later.

1 comment :

  1. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in "Gifts from the Sea" helped with my perspective on growing older. As we age we begin to lay aside those things we now realize we'll never do. Adventures we'll never have. Living this age well means not mourning those never-to-be's, but shaking those expectations off for a new sense of freedom. A re-setting of goals and dreams. Maintaining the desires of a twenty-year-old is exhausting and delusional. Releasing myself from dreams dreamt in another decade frees me to find new dreams and desires. I know more about who I am - what my kids will be like - what my career is - whether my marriage will last. This person deserves new dreams!