A social media post asked what imprints you will leave on the sands of Earth.
In light of how fragile and temporary our stays in this wondrous yet troubled world are, I'm not certain any of us will face a more pertinent question.
I'd hate to think I spent my single known lifetime seeking and acquiring only things that benefit me personally, or hating and defaming others with views or skin color different than my own, or destroying what others have created to satisfy a jealous urge, or joining the ruse of "protesting" some cause that has no legitimate basis for mayhem and destruction.
I wouldn't want to think when the final moments arrive that I'd spent my fleeting consciousness being rude to others, causing harm, stuffing my face, watching TV or playing video games while sleeping late most days.
A sense of purpose and relevance over a lifetime are aspects of being here that make it worthwhile. Stealing from others, murdering, raping, smearing, hating and lying for one's physical or psychic satisfactions bring nothing but regrets to our spirits, the way I see it.
What a worthless legacy to leave.
On the other hand, if I have a few minutes to reflect on my stay to ask what was this life thing was all about, I believe I can depart in peace remembering the times I did something that improved another's life in some manner, while acknowledging the divine creator.
I'm talking about big and small differences like taking a meal to an ailing neighbor, performing a good deed for a stranger, sharing affection and concern for those in need, doing everything possible to preserve individual freedoms and paying homage and respect to our nation and its divinely inspired Constitution.
I'd ask who I helped. What were my motives? Who did I go out of my way to help when they needed it? Did my contributions fall more often on the brighter end of the continuum that separates the shimmer of good from the darkness of evil?
I see evidence in obituaries of those whose lives left positive imprints. For instance, that section recently featured several tributes that praised the deceased's helpfulness, kindness and selflessness toward others while other obits spoke only of what they'd achieved that benefited themselves.
The first group represents the kind of imprints I prefer to leave on this earthly plane. I've previously written about this very thing when I reminded myself and others of the undeniable truth that everything we do to benefit ourselves over our lifetimes is buried with us while the good we did for others lives on.
Conversations like these crop up with increasing frequency as the months and years tick away and we grow ever closer to hopping aboard our trains out of this world. I wish these discussions could occur in our self-centered earlier years along with the understanding that we are not alone in the experience we call existence.
So what imprints will you be leaving behind? Might be worth considering, valued readers. Have you noticed how the weeks, months and years are literally zipping past from Mondays through Sundays?
Rights and obligations
An elder of the Cherokee nation once reminded us of the difference between a Western settler mindset of "I have rights" and the indigenous mindset of "I have obligations. Those obligations begin at birth to serve past, present and generations to come, along with the planet itself.
I prefer to believe rights and obligations are not mutually exclusive. The question calls to mind the words of John F. Kennedy who implored this nation to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Truth about shaming
I've learned when children are continually shamed by a parent or parents, they don't begin to hate their parents, but rather themselves. In reading this, I understood the truth is such a simple statement.
Impressionable children naturally look up to those who brought them here and are responsible for their care. They take very seriously any negative feedback and shame heaped up them. Youthful minds naturally tend to believe what their grown caregivers lay upon their psyches as defining them.
There is great unease in our national consciousness when the majority among us believe they are not being told the truth, which sadly has become the norm in today's America.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's famous essay "Live Not By Lies" explains: "We lie to ourselves to preserve our peace of mind. It is not they who should be blamed but ourselves. ... The simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation is this: Personal non-participation in lies."
I've always put it another way: "The extent to which truth is violated measures the amount of evil involved." A big lie amounts to big evil.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you'd like them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]