We sometimes hear old folks speak of their past as “the good old days.” I imagine that for them, that might possibly be true, at least at the moment. I, like many people, can look back to my early years and choose to remember only those times when life was quite good. At seventeen, flying low on the road at 120 miles per hour in the family car with reckless abandon, not considering I was driving on “may pops,” I was using the entire road because the car tended to go airborne. I was not satisfied with risking my own life, but had my two younger brothers and classmates in the car as well. I could tell many stories of my youth, of the risky and self-centered behavior typical of a young man testing his environment’s limits. The fact that I can still tell those stories attests to the fact that I did not exceed the limits of the unforgiving universe and survived to adulthood.
Those were my “good old days.” But wait. If I probe further, at that age, I was troubled with being painfully shy, afraid of going to hell for sins I had committed regularly, and full of confusion about life in general. Not to mention that the Russians might have dropped an atomic bomb on the nearby military base and sent us to hell early.
So the “good old days,” if I really analyze any period of my life, were a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I reflect, I truly believe that my personal life to the present has always, on balance, tipped the scales in favor of the good times. For me, this is due to my increasing knowledge of my fellow man and my own successful spiritual journey. That has far outweighed the decline of my physical body and its capabilities.
Unfortunately, the road of life is not as kind to many. When some reflect on the good old days, they may be looking at a past that was kind to them at first. Their journey may have started with a fair balance, but at some point became one tragic event after another right into the present. Like many dramas on TV, where the action is non-stop, one bad thing after another happens to the hero until the end. In real life, that much tragedy usually doesn’t end well.
Unlike the old men sitting on a bench reminiscing about their youth, each person has their own story. Each is unique and may contain an existence of almost complete despair, of growth and harmonic triumph, or of anything in between. This is the human condition, with all its misfortunes and successes.
As a young man, my life revolved around my own selfish desires and angst, with my small world being home, school, and community. I had little thought about the world at large. As my life’s journey broadened, my awareness of cultures and conditions on the rest of the planet became much wider, and my concern for my own state of being became less.
I am fortunate to have lived a life that has given me good times at every stage. I do have a personal hell on earth though. That is an awareness of the pain, misery, and desolation of that portion of the human race that is born into hopelessness, devoid of any escape from terrible conditions. It is a sorrow and anger that is ever present in a corner of my soul.