Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Life Balance Sheet

by Richard Crews
It's time to look back at what I GOT and MISSED in life--at what has fallen my way, and what I wish had taken a different turn.

First, the good stuff. And first and foremost among the good stuff is the realization that I have been lucky--very, VERY lucky--again, and again, and again.

To start with, I got a remarkable set of genes. There was no particular "reason" for this in the long flow of the Universe; I certainly didn't "earn" or "deserve" the genetic foundation I got. As far as I know, the great DNA lottery just spun the wheel and I won. So I wound up, for example (for a HUGE example), going through life with an IQ that is high in the top percentile. Able to see and remember and figure things out that almost everybody misses.

In addition (in the "very lucky" department), I got a physical body that is very solid--very durable and reliable. Sure I had nephritis that almost killed me when I was 14 (and chronic kidney limitations since), and hepatitis that likewise almost did me in when I was 32 (and left me with lingering, background liver disease ever since), and heart disease that has put me on the brink--seconds away--from saying "sayonara" any instant in the past 35 years, and chronic lung disease, and GI disease, etc., etc. But basically this body I got to drive for the past 73 years has done one helluva stalwart, steady, reliable job.

Another bigee in the "lucky" department is being born into the socio-economic upper crust--high in the top percentile worldwide. I've never been "rich" by anybody's standards (except those of the bottom 95% of the world's population), but I was never hungry or cold or destitute, I always had a place to live and food to eat and clothes to wear--not to mention a car to drive and whatever were the latest toys and play-tools that were bubbling up through our amazing technological culture.

Maybe those are the big two in my lucky, lucky life--getting smart and sturdy-body genes, and an upper-crust socio-economic start--but they barely begin to tell the story. I have been so incredibly, astoundingly lucky again and again, minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day, year after year as I have stumbled along blindly and half-conscious in life--it almost makes me believe there is some Great Benevolent Force guiding my hand. When I think of the times . . . of careening down a coastline highway late one night at 80 miles per hour in the rain with no brakes; of walking into an Army prison shower room where an scared and angry young soldier with a loaded and cocked 45 was threatening to kill anybody who came near him saying to him, "Sit down--I just want to talk to you for a minute"; of having my bike whacked by a pickup truck trying to beat the light and the traffic going around a downtown corner and walking away without a scratch (a couple of weeks ago) . . . but those are just the "big" times. I'm talking about every second of every day. Often shielding me from my own "desires," expectations, and beliefs. I've come to expect that it doesn't really matter what I think or want or plan--what winds up happening will turn out to be best in the long run.

On the "bad" side, I wish I had learned several foreign languages fluently before I was 12. Lots of people do. It's no big "brain" thing--not at that age--it's a matter of opportunity. And it teaches a person to think outside the box for the rest of ones life. I wish I had learned to play the piano--or "keyboard"--when I was age 5 to 15, not to perform but everyone should be able to sit down at a keyboard and read through a piece of music. It's another language; not being able to do it facilly cuts you off from a whole other world of feeling and communication. I wish I had gotten more into gymnastics when I was in my teens; it provides a kid with a balanced and coordinated sense of dealing with ones body and the physical world for the rest of ones life.

Most of all I wish I'd learned to get along with people better. I've been socially obtuse--basically a loner--a hermit--all my life. It's been a good life. But it might have been more fun, more satisfying, if I'd been better able to share it more fully with some of the people who have passed by.