Saturday, March 31, 2012

Salvation Lies Within*

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. – Red, The Shawshank Redemption

Yesterday, tens of millions of Mega Millions ticket buyers had hope.  Hope drove them to travel by car and by foot to their nearest Mega Millions lottery retailer to buy as many $1 chances at hope as they could afford.  Hope helped them ignore the fact that they were 2,000 times more likely to be hit by falling space junk during that trip to the store than they were to hit all of the numbers.  For that $1 (or more), they got what they paid for – a few hours of hope.  I hope it was worth it while it lasted.

From the people that I have spoken to, it was worth it.  The fantasy and hope of winning put a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.  For a few days or hours, the dream of collecting the massive jackpot caused them to evaluate their own lives and priorities in a positive light.  “What would I do with my time?  What would I change?  What groups would receive my generous donations and volunteer time?  Who would fall off my Christmas card list the next day?”  Everybody thinks about it, and there is nothing wrong with that, assuming ‘thinking’ doesn’t morph into ‘obsessing’.
These are all good questions to ponder.  But why do we wait until the mirage of millions is waved in front of us to consider how we want to spend our lives?  “What would I change?” should be a regular question we ask ourselves. 

“Get busy living or getting busy dying.” – Red, The Shawshank Redemption 

As I eyeball my 50th birthday on the horizon this week, and I wallow in midlife reflection and self-examination, I think about these life choices without the lottery as motivation.  I don’t need to wonder anymore about what I would do “if”.  According to the calendar, I have less time than I did a week ago.  I need to act on my answers to those questions now while I can still hear, see and move without discomfort.  Just because I didn’t win the lottery doesn’t mean I can’t still achieve those dreams on a slightly smaller scale.      
No one changes much after hearing the news that they will not be retiring immediately and buying an island.  For a moment after the numbers are announced, there might be disappointment, but for most, it passes quickly.  Life goes on.  My birthday will come and go, and for a moment, there might be disappointment that I am this old.  For most, it (the disappointment) should pass quickly, and life will go on.  Perhaps I won’t change much either after I come to grips with my chronological age.

Red was correct.  Hope can drive a man insane.  Almost three quarters of a billion dollars will do that.  I will keep the Mega Millions lottery in perspective in the future and hopefully my friends will too.  My 50th birthday, however, I cannot keep in the same perspective.  The odds of my reaching 50 are better than my odds of winning the lottery, although those two events might be more similar than I realize. 
Turning 50, I realize that I have already won the lottery.  So now I can answer those burning questions: What will I do with the time?  What will I change?  What groups will receive my generous donations and volunteer time?  Who will fall off my Christmas card list the next day?

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. – Andy, The Shawshank Redemption

Salvation Lies Within* - what the warden of Shawshank Prison told Andy Dufrense about the Bible, and what Andy quoted back to the warden in his inscription of the Bible he used to hide the rock hammer that helped him dig the escape tunnel.

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