Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Hitting Your Prime

The experts say we hit our physical prime by age 25. Then it’s all downhill, though doing our best to minimize the decline. What about our mental peak? Based on a move-by-move analysis of chess players, the European Study puts our mental peak around 35 years. Then, again, it’s all decline. Troubled by this, I asked the big question: Is there any dimension where we might improve throughout our lives?

Good news. Studies affirm our potential for lifelong spiritual growth—the sphere of the human spirit or soul, and the concern of religion. Of the varied descriptions of spiritual progress, common denominators include moving from egoistic self-interest to increased care for others; of turning from status symbols of wealth to fulfillment through giving; and from focus on the physical senses towards awareness of and harmony with the spiritual. It’s an encouraging vision—as our physical capabilities decline, our spiritual attributes can soar. Our prime is ever before us.

Christmas is a spiritual litmus test, an indicator of our progress. For some it’s associated with the Holiday blues, a time of sadness. Others find joy in Christmas traditions. There appears to be a link between spirituality and happiness. People with a strong spiritual life are much less likely to be addicted, or suffer major depression, a finding affirmed by brain MRIs. While each of us differ, the spiritual dimension seems important to contentment and happiness.

We’re working through the Christmas traditions. My Dad would spend hours finding the perfect Christmas tree. My method was to find that person laboring to choose between two great trees, and when they had made their choice quietly grab the other. Now that I’m older, like a grandparent with grandkids, I think all the trees wonderful, and equally fragrant.

I’ve put up the lights, including a star over the chimney. I’ve used these lights for years, liking them over newer, fancier options. The neighbors look alarmed as I climb my ladder, but it’s very satisfying to turn the lights on, bringing cheer to the darkening night. Walking home in the dark with the Beautiful Wife from the neighborhood Yule program, Christmas lights showed us the way.

Laguna’s Hospitality Night was wonderful; lots of people, lots of light, lots of joy. This weekend we’ll attend as many Christmas programs as we can, visiting Laguna’s churches. The Beautiful Wife is working on her Santa balls, helped by her daughters and daughter-in-law. It’s work, but it’s also a chance to be together.

I’ve been decorating the tree, listening to Christmas music. We still have those old alcohol lights that bubble, they remind me of my grandmother’s tree, and of her. My favorite ornaments are the simple ones the children made years ago, and the ones collected along the way. This year we have one from our visit to the Navajo reservation. To decorate the tree is to relive our lives. I’m starting to see life as a spiritual journey, every year richer. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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