“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
In my first book, Stones Across the River, I argue that these are your peak years. Wherever you find yourself, whatever era through which you are passing, has the potential to contain your best moments and your best self. The point is this: if you meet yourself where you are, marrying your attitude, effort and desires, you can turn those times into peak moments – no matter what stage of life in which you find yourself.
These days are momentous. Much is happening, good and bad. Right now we’ve got it all: social upheaval, political turmoil, pandemic, economic stress, geopolitical pressures, uncertainty. We feel caught in the grand sweep of events churning what once felt normal and leaving us unsettled in ways that most of us have never known; or at least in ways in which we are able to remember. All of it feels quite momentous.
Know this, the broad drama unfolding before us, in our streets, on our phones, on the news, in our living rooms, and between our ears is nothing new. Momentous? Yes. New? No. Since the day Adam and Eve found themselves on the outside of Paradise, our collective humanity has been living an ongoing drama. Good. Bad. Real. Imagined. Hopeful. Depressing. Names, landscapes, technology, and the scope of humanity have changed but the root of our existence remains quite the same.
These are our peak years and yes, they are full of valleys.
It’s a great time to be alive!
You are here, in the game, playing. Perhaps you are on the sidelines for a few minutes. That’s ok, take a break. Grab a drink. You’ll soon be back in. Maybe you’re tired. Take heart, you’ll get your second wind. You may be frustrated. Ok, feel it for a minute and push on. Perhaps you are lying on the field, bruised and bloodied from the fray. Call for help if you need it, otherwise, get up and push on.
Maybe you’re winning. Savor it. Share it. Be grateful for the time on the brighter side of existence. Or, you may be losing. Take heart, there is still time left in the game and many opportunities to change your fortunes. Even in those darkest moments, things can shift quickly and profoundly. Always remember that the living occurs between the winning and the losing.
This is a great time to be alive. These are our days. This is our world. We face our problems and our opportunities. Sometimes together. Sometimes apart. Still, here we are, moving within the arena and amid the grand spectacle unfolding all around us. Does it feel dramatic? Of course it does. We’re living an epic!
Some of us may lament these days. The mantle of existence can feel heavy. Hope may take flight and elude our pursuit. That’s ok, feel it…for a minute or two. Then remember that it is always right around the corner. in a smile. In a kind word. Floating in a random act of love or generosity. It remains flighty but persistently returns.
Rudyard Kipling once challenged us to “meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.” His point? Live well in good times and bad because It’s always a great time to be alive. When you say your prayers of gratitude, be grateful for the gifts but don’t forget to appreciate the challenges that further define you, prepare you, and improve you. Neither one will remain long but both will visit you repeatedly during your journey on this planet.
You see, you didn’t earn your life, it was a gift. Whether you believe it was a Divine gift or the random gifting from a disordered universe, it was handed to you unearned, unrequested, and in a most unexpected way. You received it and have been bobbing along in its flowing waters for some time now. Possibly, you’ve loved and hated it in alternating patterns but it remains the one true, complete, and ever evolving reality that is yours alone.
My oh my, what a great time to be alive!
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater”J.R.R. Tolkien
Ours is a world of flowers and bruises. The beauty and ugliness that in equal measures delights and assaults us are the necessary companions on a journey full of moments. Momentous and ignominious experiences remain partners bent on making our days equally interesting and distressing. Through it all, our peak moments emerge, our best is made real, and our worst works to hold us in check.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.Winston Churchill
And so, the end of the beginning moves haltingly on as we begin to see brighter days ahead. Our passion and endurance are tested once again and onward we move. Choices for our betterment or our detriment remain ours to make and we find ourselves still retaining the possession of great freedom holding within it the seeds of good or evil.
These are truly great days in which to live. The highs and lows may be bothersome but they mark the edges of our experience and bring the great expanse of human feeling to bear on the paths we walk. The alternating contrast brings weight and texture to all we encounter and flavors our living with the tactile that makes our existence real. This is the drama. This is our epic. This is a great time to be alive.
Thanks for the pep talk, Phil. I think I needed that!