All my life, I have been a “quotes” guy. What I mean by that is that whenever I come across just the right combination of words, they stick in my head and stay with me as if they have become part of my soul. I know it sounds strange, but we all have our quirks, and this just happens to be mine.

I even remember, more or less, when it all started; in my elementary school years, we would go on cross-country family vacations, traveling to as many states as we could fit in, entering and leaving states with the welcome signs that included their State mottoes. For example, SD: “Under God, the people rule,” IL:” Land of Lincoln,” ID: “Esto perpetual” (let it be perpetual), MD: “Fatti Maschii Parole Femine” (strong deeds, gentle words), NH: “Live Free or Die,” and so on. Ultimately, these things triggered something in me that would go on to play a significant role in my adult life, especially as it relates to the writing career I find myself pursuing now.

I firmly believe we are all born with a gift, whatever that gift might be, which is to say each of us has that one “thing” that just comes naturally to us. This doesn’t mean we are born with a destiny to make a career of it, be better at it than anyone else, or even put it to any real income-generating purpose. It simply means we are good at it and like doing it. For me, it was letters and words; I don’t think I ever failed a spelling or vocabulary test in elementary school, I was in the spelling bee Club in junior high, and for all the classes I skipped in high school… I never got less than an “A” in English Lit or English Comp. This is not me bragging… I failed every damn foreign language class I ever took (my brain cannot accept words out of order in a sentence), but the love poems to my high school sweetheart were pretty damn Epic.

My first attempt at college was an abysmal failure. Still, I made it through the second try and went on to build a career in electrical engineering that – in the twilight years- relegated me to a classroom teaching eager young minds fresh out of college some of the things they would need to know in order to do their jobs. It would become the double-edged sword of my third stroke, by the mysterious grace of God, that I would be forced all at once to figure out how I would live out my days unable to read or write and simultaneously seek out ways to find some modicum of meaning and purpose in what remained of them.

I have written elsewhere about my path to recovery and how it intersected with an occupational therapist that effectively stood me back up on my feet, dusted my ass off, and threw me back into the circle of life so I won’t be labor the point here, but suffice it to say that for all the things we assume is random, I’m pretty sure that’s simply not the case in the larger context of human existence. It isn’t that she taught me how to read and write again; she simply forced me to confront my fears and self-pity and gave me the space I needed to re-discover the innate human reality which suggests that it is not our failures that define us so much as it is what we are willing to endure until we ultimately succeed. By whichever name you prefer, Karma… Destiny… And so on, along with my stubborn refusal to roll over and die and be helpless, it would be my natural affinity for (and attraction to) words, phrases, and expressions that would bring me to where I am now, adding this essay as the first in a collection I’m sharing in the book I knew I would write the second they told me I’d never be able to write.

So … To the earlier point of having a “thing” for quotes, consider Mark Twain’s “Let us live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.” I came by that one many years ago, and I have never forgotten it. That one, along with “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” inspired, at least in part, many of my own creations, such as “Wisdom is Failure’s bastard.” and “No one takes anything from you that you haven’t let them keep.” continue to provide my own motivation to keep moving forward regardless the obstacles or challenges I now confront.

Now, because I’m officially old (at 65) and my forced retirement has afforded me a greater opportunity to reflect honestly about my life, I have come to understand that life is not supposed to be easy by its very design. It is not intended to be uncomplicated, and life most assuredly cannot be lived without pain, anguish, suffering, defeat, and remorse. In the greatest and most delicious irony, understanding and embracing these things are what separates us most from the lower species we share space with on this spinning little blue ball in the cosmos. And I chose the word “irony” after great consideration; no word better describes the overall condition of the homo sapien species, given all its advanced capacities, that the smarter we become, the more prone we are to species-ending ignorance, vanity and stupidity. As it is written in the Bible, however, “Let not your heart be troubled” because, over the course of the 300,000 years or so that we have walked upright across the planet, our species remains because of what James Taylor put into words in the 70s the lifehack our ancestors have known for many millennia to help us get through all the madness: “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.”

I came of age in the 70s and was fortunate to have been exposed to James Taylor early in his career. Even though I grew to prefer loud smash-mouth music, Sweet Baby James was always the go-to background guy for cuddling and make-out sessions with your best girl. In a lot of ways, maybe he still is. There’s just something about that voice: smooth, soft, laid-back… just relaxed and chill. I have lost count, over the years, of how many times I’ve gotten worked up or felt put out about something or another and started humming one of his countless ballads and felt instantly better.

Yeah, I’ve got issues in my life now, but who doesn’t? Put things in the proper perspective. Once you confront your fears and self-pity and give yourself the space you need to re-discover your capacity to endure them until you find success, you will find that despite all the bumps in the road, it truly is a lovely ride.

Since this is going in a book, I can’t insert the video of this song (readily available on Spotify and other platforms). Still, I want to close this essay with the lyrics to the song that inspired me, having chosen this story as the first entry in the book. With all the anger and acrimony, violence and hate, and so much emphasis being placed these days in our culture with regard to the things that separate us, I take it upon myself to use this opportunity to remind my brothers and sisters around the world that we are more alike than we are different and that the more time we spend enjoying the ride of life… Enjoying the passage of time spent living it… The better off we will be, and the better off our subsequent Generations will be.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride
The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while
We might as well show some style
Give us a smile
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s a lovely ride
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, I’ll be gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
Ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride


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