My great-uncle Ivan liked to say that ideas are useless if you don’t do something with them. He said he had seen only a precious few people who came up with good ideas and followed through with the drive and need for them to come to fruition. They had an energy that went beyond perseverance. The idea was the source of great vitality.
At the time Ivan shared his thoughts about vitality with me, I was in the process of changing the direction of my life by committing to a career change. He knew the love I had for broadcasting was not just a passing fancy. He knew I was on to something I had to accomplish. Ivan said if I kept myself focused while I was young and vital, I would never regret making the required difficult choices.
I’ve written about uncle Ivan in the past because he was more influential in my life in many ways than my parents. There was a positive, caring type of stubbornness about his personality. Whatever he set out to do, he finished it. He had a raft load of charisma that was authentic. People were drawn to his strong, loving persona. They knew Ivan would never let them down.
My great-uncle’s vitality extended to the plant kingdom, too. To say Ivan had a green thumb would be an understatement. His entire back yard was a lush garden, bursting with fresh vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts. He generously shared his produce with family and friends. There was a distinct wholesomeness about that food, too.
If you spent very much time around Ivan, you’d find out he had a distinctive pet peeve about conspicuous consumption. He liked to grumble about the world’s “show and tell” culture. Ivan detested the monotony, boredom, brainless production, mindless consumption, and emptiness of consumerism. His views were formed between the world wars and during World War Two. The America of his youth was dramatic, brutal, tense, and violent. It was tempered by the Great Depression.
His outlook was also shaped by witnessing, first-hand, man’s inhumanity to man by the human rights violations of wartime. He saw consumerism as a superficial imitation of success and braggadocio. Ivan believed that “show and tell” was a lifestyle not worth living. “Show and tell” was a parody of the just rewards for struggles that people earn. He said there is no honest vitality in popular consumerism. I wonder what Ivan might say about today’s culture of hyper-consumerism.
Perhaps uncle Ivan might sense the undercurrent of humanity present in the nation and the world, today. There is a new crop of young people who want to reflect their honesty, creativity, and vitality. He might pick up on the sense that the new artisans are committed to following through to genuinely change the world for the better.
When a person lacks vitality, there is no way to conceal it. It’s like an electronic toy with a dead battery pack. How do you hide the fact that the batteries need recharging? If you want the toy to work, you have to plug it into the charging unit.
A person’s charging unit is inspired discipline. Plugging into this charging unit means discarding distractions and things that hold us back. To effectively use the new personal energy means cutting out negativity that drains energy. In effect, freedom is the way we recharge our “battery packs”.
“Imagine if the people who have lived and learned still had the vitality to act upon the hard learned lessons–and not just share in a conversation, but lead.”–Ron Howard
Too many older folks retire, then just sit around all day, passively consuming media. Their muscles atrophy and lose strength from lack of exercise. This inactivity saps their drive and vitality. Part of this problem is due to the fact that many young people perceive old people as stodgy and frozen in tradition. They don’t know that a lot of old people still feel like twenty-somethings in their own minds. This is picked up by and internalized by older people.
For civilization to thrive, there needs to be a diverse, healthy blend of various types of people who work well together. This mixture blends different points of view in positive ways and generates a great deal of vitality.
This brings me back to uncle Ivan. He was a laid-back, optimistic man who was admired and looked up to by younger people. He kept up his spunky vitality long after his professional retirement. His life was based upon order and action carried out in compassionate, humane ways. His vitality could be seen in his eyes.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Oscar Wilde. “Nothing, indeed, is more dangerous to the young artist than any conception of ideal beauty. He is constantly led by it either into weak prettiness or lifeless abstraction. Whereas to touch the ideal at all, you must not strip it of vitality.”