Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Human Benefits Of Gaining Life Experiences

The Human Factor

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau [1817-1862]: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have 
not stood up to live.”
Creditcirca 1855; Illustration from the book, American Men of Letters: Henry D. Thoreau by F.B. Sanborn. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884.
One of the few benefits of becoming older is that advanced age suggests that you have collected decades of life experiences; some good, some less so. And yet the experiences are there, sorted and counted, often remembered in some fashion and discussed, notably with friends and family. Their importance cannot be denied, often emphasized in a humane and humane manner by individuals who have both made many mistakes and learned many lessons.

Experience is one of the many things that cannot be purchased—for any price by any person; experience is not for the young; it can never be. It is for those individuals who have lived life and through the living have gained (some) knowledge on how to live further.

It’s interesting to note that the primary function of the human organism is to first survive and live on; in our daily movements, including work, family and community, we can forget that survival is key and that our lives as humans are closely connected to this necessity. And, yet, survival itself is only the beginning of the human experience; living and experiencing our surroundings is what we do to attain full individual lives.  It is a full life that we desire; or I suspect that many of us do.

Yet, you can’t really understand life until you have lived it a great deal, which makes the 50s the age when one begins to put life’s experience in perspective. (I am 55) The later decades of life are when one begins to understand and then practice the real purpose of life: enjoying human relationships chief among them.

Such explains the importance of experience, which is two-fold; 1) as a way to learn to live life for enjoyment and pleasure, that is to experience life’s offerings with understanding and emotion; and 2) as a way to learn, to interpret and to understand, as rational knowledge, life’s lessons, so to speak. The first is personal and individual; the second is more universal and rational, where some of it can be imparted to others, notably to a younger generation open to receiving. This is not always the case, and moreover many confuse the second purpose with the first.

While knowledge acquisition, as it is often called today, is important, it is not the focus of the first reason. The first is to enjoy life; such is the only purpose. I suspect that many people have a hard time doing this, seeing it necessary to do the second. Take, for example, a family going on a trip to Europe to see some of the world’s heritage sites; for some this becomes a reason to have a check-list of things to see, including museums, historic buildings and monuments. In the process of meeting the dictatorial requirements of the self-imposed vacation check-list, the experience of leisurely enjoying the sites is diminished. One even wonders if there is even any knowledge gained.

There is a remarkable difference between collecting, collating and curating a series of life events and actually listening, learning and laughing from them; one is harder to attain than the other. It’s not that one is superior but rather of a different order. It depends on how one views the purpose of living life. For some, its purpose is to chiefly collect experiences, as one would collect art, as a proof to others that their life has been full, complete, if you will. And there are the supporting photos.

In such cases, is the time wasted? No, but the experience differs from someone who views such trips in a more personal manner. I would prefer a generally unplanned vacation and decide what to do when I arrive at a destination, making such trips more eventful and surprising. Planning has its purposes but not for vacations and trips of leisure. One of the purposes of such trips is to experience the local culture, which includes meeting the local people; such might be at least equal to seeing historical sights.

I always enjoy chance encounters with people sitting at cafés and restaurants, and striking up a conversation. I have made a number of acquaintances and friends in this manner. Yes, the human factor. It might be that such an approach to living is more directed at people; such encounters have enriched my life over the years and have given me added knowledge and experiences in which to shape my thoughts and views. These I cherish and count among my many fond memories.

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