IS YOUR GOAL OF LIFE “SIMPLIFICATION”?
Nearly a century ago, Supreme Court jurist, Oliver Wendell Homes wrote, “I would not give a fig for the simplification on this side of complexity, but I would give anything I have for the simplification on the other side of complexity.” In 1951, Lewis Sherrill wrote in The Struggle of the Soul that the central problem of aging is “simplification of life”. By this he meant “distinguishing the more important from the less important, getting rid of the less important or relegating it to the margin; and elevating the more important to the focus of feeling, thought, and action.”
Sherrill also wrote that the central developmental task of parenting for the first decade of the child’s life is to make people and relationships more important than material things. Every decade of life thereafter continues to involve this struggle. This is especially critical in our consumer focused world. Are our things more important than human life?
My mentor in psychology, Viktor Frankl thought that the meaning of life is found in our “creative values” – the things we do, the ”experiential values” – the things we take in, and our “attitudinal values” – the stands we take. At 77, what do I do with this wisdom and what in the world does it have to do with gardening?
Simplifying my creative values involves accepting the limitations that aging brings. I am not as strong or agile as I used to be. In my grandiosity ten years ago I tried to take care of two fenced in 54’x30’ gardens. The tilling, adding compost and organic fertilizers, planting, and even harvesting got to be overwhelming and too much. I try not to climb ladders or lift and carry heavy objects. I walk the dog twice a day for both of us, but I don’t run anymore. I am finding that the acreage I have and the stuff I have accumulated are more of a burden. I need to prune my stuff now and not wait until someone else has to do it.
My experiential values involve enjoying my relationships to my wife, son and his family, other family members, and to the too few friends I have. I live to eat the delicious recipes that my wife makes from our garden fecundity. I thrill in watching plants grow and produce fruit in my garden and orchard. My wife is a bird watcher and small bird rehabilitator, so there is the “wonder” of the many birds attracted to our yard. I still get excited going salt water fishing with my wife, son, or a friend in our Jon boat.
My attitudinal values are affected by my spiritual values. It is in my garden that my Lord “walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own”. I have trusted God’s calling as a minister and Pastoral Counselor thus far in life’s journey. I have a peace that I can trust God to be with me in the limitations, sufferings, and grief that my last years will bring including death.