Two views of life – one toxic, one life-giving

deadly view of life

Our society has a view of life that can be toxic to staying alive and vital as we grow older.

The toxic view is a curved line shaped like a bell. It starts to the left and moves to the right representing age. The curve rises and falls representing an increase or decrease in our powers.  It depicts what popular culture considers four basic stages of life:

  1. Childhood Play (early in life and low in power) in which we engage in random, fun behavior and discover what we like, what we’re good at, what we don’t like, and are not so good at.
  2. Adolescent Schooling (teen to early twenties and increasing in power) in which we give up childhood play and get ready for adulthood by sitting at desks, listening to teachings, and spitting back the right answers to pass tests.
  3. Adult Productivity (late twenties and early thirties) at the peak of our power) in which we get a job (hopefully a good paying one), make money, and acquire things like a family, home, car, adult toys, and save for retirement.
  4. Retirement (sixties to the end of life and declining in power) in which we are told our powers steadily decline.

In my experience this model produces the kind of mindset among our elders that basically says “The best of my life is behind me.” This view leads inevitably to stagnation, ill health, debility, and premature death.

Spiral view of life

Healthy, life-giving view

A more healthy and life-giving view sees life as a spiral line. It starts in the center at birth and loops around in ever widening circles as we age. As life goes on, we develop ever greater powers as long as we live. In my experience this model produces the kind of mindset among our elders that basically says “The best of my life is yet to come.

Instead of focusing on some powers  that inevitably decline as we grow older, it focuses on powers that may increase, such as wisdom, patience, gratitude, empathy, and compassion. And instead of confining play, education, productivity, and rest to any one age, it allows for each of these experiences throughout life.

When you think about these two views of life, does the second one help you see your own in a more healthy way?

Paul Carter

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