Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Small Print and Waterfalls

Life is often referred to as a gift, and it truly is. You didn't have to be born, and you certainly wouldn't have been aware of it if you hadn't. Most people simply accept the gift of life as their due and are totally unaware that this greatest of all gifts comes with a contract comprised of page after page of “Party of the First Part”s and “Whereas”s and “Hereby agrees to”s and “Contingent upon the Conditions Outlined in Paragraph 15-B, Sub-Paragraph 2”s. Nor are they aware that by accepting the gift they are required to pay for warranty with a balloon-payment attached. Few are aware that the warranty is filled a great number of small-print conditions outlining just how much all the wonderful things granted you in the Gift of Life contract is going to cost you in the form of hidden fees—or that the balloon payment grows more expensive the longer you live.

The concept of such a contract or a warranty is lost on most human beings, who tend to be, by and large, an ungrateful lot. We accept what we've been given without question, and instead of appreciating all we were given, complain about what we were not. So concentrated are we on ourselves and our personal needs and wants, we seldom bother ourselves with the esoteric details of the fine print. When it comes to showing gratitude for our gifts, Americans and Canadians set one day a year...out of 365...aside to pay lip service to appreciation for our blessings. We call it Thanksgiving, but it tends to be more about food than gratitude.

I find it interesting that, as we grow older, our physical eyesight tends to become less sharp, while the awareness of the small print in our contract and warranty begins to loom larger and in ever-sharper mental focus.

Life is full of ironies, one of the greatest being our almost awe-inspiring ability to totally disregard the obvious. While if pressed we will give a halfhearted and insincere acknowledgement that yes, we'll all be old some far, far point in the distant future...not one in ten thousand gives the slightest thought to the reality of what the process entails. It's as though each of us is in a small canoe floating lazily down a river, unaware of the growing roar of a waterfall just around the bend. I, who have always been acutely and painfully aware of the passage of time and keenly attuned to the sound of the falls, spend increasing amounts of time waving my fellow canoeists, yelling “Back-paddle! Back-paddle! Old age is coming up fast!” Few people pay any attention at all, or even glance away from the scenery along the shore.

And what can you do even if you are aware of it, other than let the knowledge of what lies ahead ruin your present? Good question. I would not wish anyone to be as consumed with time as I, but I would urge you to be more aware and appreciative of stop and reflect a moment or two every day on just how lucky you are to have what you have. Even if you're going through a rough time on some level, the irrefutable fact is that regardless of what you do, say, or think, it will pass. And never lose sight of the fact that no matter what your problem, others have experienced exactly the same situation, and have come through it.

Although it's probably impossible for any human being to be fully prepared for being old, the transition period can be made far smoother by simply appreciating every day the Gift of Life grants you. The warranty is still in effect, so instead of wasting time and energy in bitching about what you don't have, be grateful for what you do have. And never forget that however old you may be at this exact moment, you are the youngest you will ever be again.

I recently saw something on the internet which I've added to my email as my signature line, and you might like to consider its truth: “Don't be concerned with whether your glass is half full or half empty: be thankful that you have a glass, and grateful that there is something in it.”

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Eric Arvin said...

Powerful piece! I am very aware of time. I think about its passing constantly. I think this has to do with my near death experiences these past ten years. I try and appreciate every breath, every key stroke, I take.

George Seaton said...

Amen! Good stuff, Dorien.

George Seaton said...

Amen! Good stuff, Dorien, especially now that I'm, um, aging a bit myself.

Kage Alan said...

Ah, the glass. I wrote a bit about that in A Funny Thing... that I've always enjoyed. A friend once told me to look at life as a glass half full instead of half empty. I simply demanded to know who'd been drinking out of my glass. He said I missed the point.