The Meaning of Life
It Is All About Fighting the Good Fight for Others

One of the reoccurring themes of my life is the wanting to know. It is a driving force within my psyche and has been the topic for many of my essays. A couple of days before last Christmas, I drove to a small town east of Pittsburgh to pick up an 8-week old Irish Setter puppy. I talked with the breeder about my excitement and told her about having an Irish Setter a half century ago. Back then, I had just returned from doing some post-graduate studies at New College at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

When I returned to the States, the first thing that I did was to get a job. However, the next thing was to get an Irish Setter puppy I named Ginger. Ginger was loved by my wife and me. Over the next decade, Ginger cared for our three children by helping them to walk and cared for them as if they were her litter. However, that was at the beginning of my adult life. In the twilight years of my life, I got another Irish Setter puppy whose name is Ginger.

Thus, began my hauntings…why? I understand the drive, after going to college and graduate school for eight years, to settle down to a normal life, get a pet, have children, etc. In varying forms, that is the normal process for most people. However, what haunts me is the question now. What drives me now at the other end of my life that did at the being of my life? I’m 74-years old with a 6-month old Irish Setter.

Social Security has an interesting tool, Life Expectancy Calculator. Click on that link, fill in your sex, birthdate, and get your life expectancy based upon the national average. This is what came up for me.

There it is in black and white, which is a sobering reality. On average, an American born on January 20, 1943 has 12.5 more years of life remaining. Granted, this is merely an actuarial prediction and isn’t a guarantee that I won’t die next year or live to be 100, which is my Personal Goal. Additionally, it should be noted I have already done the dance with death twice. One dance was due to a traumatic brain injury and the other was caused by dealing with metastasized prostate cancer.

So, I went out and got an Irish Setter puppy whose lifespan is identical to mine. That haunts me at several levels. Why did I get an 8-week old puppy at the beginning of her life while I was in the twilight of mine? Even if both Ginger and I live for another dozen years, the assumption is that we will both be in good health and active until the Fall of 2029. Then, sometime in mid-October of 2029, we both die quietly in our sleep. Logically, neither assumption is likely to occur. When I face that fact, I am haunted. Trust me.

Several years ago, I spent a month in Burma/Myanmar. I wanted to interview Aung San Suu Kyi and to visit that country. If you look at all the photos that I took while visiting Burma, they fall equally between pagodas, landscapes, towns, and young children. Why young children most of whom were preschoolers? What’s the issue with the kids? That also haunts me. Why should some old guy care?

I think that my interest in an Irish Setter puppy and young children in Burma is due precisely because I am in my twilight years. In some way, I am interested in both these youngsters and Ginger as they begin exploring their various worlds.

Additionally, I have an adult granddaughter. I love Ayanna, but she is an adult. She can function in the world. However, I also have two young grandsons in Indy. Jack and Owen are beginning their journey down the yellow brick road, and they have barely started their journey.

When in Burma, I met a 9-year old little girl, Ti Ti. I see her as my young granddaughter. In some mysterious way, my drive is to assist all these children and Ginger to enjoy the beginning of their journey toward the end of mine.

Here I am, writing about my hauntings. I don’t have all the reasons for my being driven. I merely have a fragmented picture of my drive. Nonetheless, it is enough to enable me to fight the good fight for them. I take seriously Teddy Roosevelt’s comment called the Man in the Arena, which was part of a speech given at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910 exactly 107 years ago this month.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I don’t know whether all or even a few of my struggles to assist the children and Ginger will be realized, but I will not quiver in the corner afraid to fight the good fight. Interestingly, William Ernest Henley wrote the poem, Invictus in 1875. Essentially, Roosevelt and Henley were making similar statements of faith. Without knowing in advance about whether either will be successful, they were engaged and driven.

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

Whether I succeed at grasping the meaning of my life, interview Aung San Suu Kyi, help children, and Ginger, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” I shall succeed. However, if on my deathbed, I haven’t been as successful as I had hoped, it won’t be due to not trying.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

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My Hauntings

My Hauntings

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An old man and his grandson

An Old Man and His Grandson

Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.

Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

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The Last Lecture

TheLast Lecture

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Best of Times

Best and Worst of Times

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Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

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Thus Ginger Spoke

Thus Ginger Spoke

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