The Great Leveler


John Wright


Hey, I admit that I have been hooked by all the formal proceedings associated with saying good-bye to former president Ronald Reagan. The sheer amount of time in eulogies and formal services, conducted with the very best facilities and accompaniments our country can do to honor someone, is impressive. More than a full week since he died, and even following his sunset burial yesterday, the media canít seem to find any subject half as interesting as Ronald Reagan. I wonder where all these media folks were in the past 16 years following his presidency?

Yes, we have an opportunity to make a mortal an immortal hero, and for the moment so shall he be. Iím okay with that mostly because I really do understand human nature Ö both our business acumen on the part of the media and our little guy need to have heroes. Alas, most of our lives are lived small when compared to that of Ronald Reagan. But I found myself wondering about the overall significance of the majesty of his departure. What does it really mean compared to a roadside death of a common tramp?

Did we assure Ron of a higher place in "Heaven?" I tend to doubt that. I have no desire to demean him in any way, for to be blunt he grabbed life by the horns and lived it to the full. That, my friends, is something to be respected as far too few of us live as dynamically as did Ronald Reagan. Still, he died Ö in every way as final as all of us alive now will die. Sure, we can and should honor his memory and the highlights of his accomplishments. Indeed, we can and should honor the aspects of the man as a professional and a thinker who tried to the best of his ability to make our lives better.

Still, he died. He is dead. Just like everyone else who preceded him Ö perhaps some four billion people. Thatís a lot of people, and they all perished, just like Ron, in the most basic sense. And the world goes on.

I reflected on some of my thoughts in Destiny about power and the inevitability of death, no matter how powerful or wealthy an individual may be here in a transient sense, and how approaching old age and pending death can cause some powerful people to disintegrate in their behaviors. You see, death is the great leveler. Old age, poor health and death get all of us who are fortunate enough to become old. Wealth and power mean literally nothing.

One might say, "Hold the fort!" "Arenít you forgetting the reality that the wealthy and powerful have used most of their lives doing everything, while the rest of us muddle in mediocrity?" Sure, they have. Some 80 or so years out of milleniums of time were used to the full. Hmmm Ö that really isnít impressive at all as the human animal lives such a short time in the grand scheme of existence.

As we think in terms of our longevity, those among us who succeed to have the best appear impressive. Think, however, of the mayfly. It lives less than one of our days. Perhaps we could think of turtles or elephants that live up to 150 years. The idea is that basing our values on our specific longevity and how we have put in our time is kind of silly in a cosmic sense. Remember that the intelligent way to look at life and all possible opportunity is in terms of what could be or might be, if we do the right things, not the silly temporal limits that afflict us now and in the past.

Yes, folks, the human animal continues to be severely limited in lifespan, and our best efforts at staying healthy through responsible living habits and the present miracles of medical science may add twenty to forty years to our general lifespan, if we happen to be genetically fortunate. Then, we die. Just like now. Iím not impressed. A 25% to 33% increase in lifespan is a joke, and a rather poor one at that when one considers what we have to do to achieve that goal. Uh, tell me, doctor, how dynamic will I be in my last thirty years, compared to my first thirty years?

Okay Ö enough cynicism. The reality is that we will, through technology, stop the aging process and be dynamic, perhaps for thousands of years. It is just a matter of "time." We are well along the way to changing virtually all of our limits.

In the interim, death helps us accept that even the most mean-spirited bastard among us loses his most precious possession Ölife. I saw this reality in microcosm in secondary school. The bullies who temporarily made life difficult for well-behaved students had a very small and temporary domain. In the world of adults people werenít allowed to do what the bullies did, unless they desired a jail sentence. This was cause for me to display a sneaky, knowing smile about the future of the bullies. Oh my, how short perspective is for most of us, especially the bullies.

A minor extrapolation of that truth made obvious to me in my adult life that nothing nasty goes on forever. Sure, an individual may be destroyed, and the occasional prick needs to be sidestepped, but societies bounce back. Use any country you want and you will see the truth of my assertion. If greatness was lost it can and will return. Think about China. If there never was greatness, then there is no particular reason to have faith that there will ever be greatness. Think about most of Africa.

The challenge going forward is to make certain that our increase in longevity is accompanied by true commitment to our highest goal Ö to know and to honor the source of our creation. Humble, maybe Ö but with a powerful and lasting mission.