This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
– George Bernard Shaw
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Have you ever wondered about the human body? Did you know that your eye is so well made, that if the earth was flat, you would spot a candle flickering at night at around 30 miles away, nerve impulses travel to and from the brain at a speed of 250 miles per hour (which is faster than a Formula 1 car), your brain can read at over 1,000 words per minute, and so on and so forth? These are just a few interesting facts but you’d have to wonder, if this is how wonderfully made we are, what are we to do about it?
There’s so much that we are capable of doing. Many times, however, we lose sight of what we could do simply because it is easy to forget we could be more than what we are now. We forget one important word that has to do with living: vitality.
Vitality is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary this way: a lively or energetic quality; the capacity to live and develop. It is also defined in this manner: the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the nonliving.
What differentiates the living from the nonliving? Vitality. Are we still actually living? I mean really living, not just existing. Well, that means that we attack each day with vigor and verve. That means we have to understand that life is meant to be used up, not stored away! We are capable of so much more than we could actually think; it’s just that we don’t even realize it. Take this article, for example. The sad reality of life is that a lot of people stop living before their time is up. Don’t be that person!
Died, age 20; buried, age 60. The sad epitaph of too many Americans.
Mummification sets in on too many young men at an age when they should be ripping the world wide open.
For example: Many people reading this page are doing so with the aid of bifocals. Inventor? B. Franklin, age 79.
The presses that printed this page were powered by electricity. One of the first harnessers? B. Franklin, age 40.
Some reading this on the campus of one of the Ivy League universities. Founder? B. Franklin, age 45.
Others, in a library. Who founded the first library in America? B. Franklin, age 25.
Some got their copy through the U. S. Mail. It’s father? B. Franklin, age 31.
Now, think fire. Who started the first fire department, invented the lightning rod, designed a heating stove still in use today? B. Franklin, ages 31, 43, 36.
Wit. Conversationalist. Economist. Philosopher. Diplomat. Favorite of the capitals of Europe. Journalist. Printer. Publisher. Linguist (spoke and wrote five languages). Advocate of paratroopers (from balloons) a century before the airplane was invented. All this until age 84. And he had exactly two years of formal schooling.
It’s a good bet that you already have more sheer knowledge than Franklin ever had when he was your age. Perhaps you think there’s no use trying to think of anything new, that everything’s been done. Wrong. The simple, agrarian America of Franklin’s day didn’t begin to need the answers we need today.
Go do something about it! Tear out this page and read it on your 84th birthday. Ask yourself what took over in your life, indolence or ingenuity?
Source: Richard Kerr, “Advice to a (bored) young man,” Newsweek (February 13, 1967): 112–113.