A Long and Happy Life

I hear that phrase an awful lot. So and so get married, and someone wishes them “a long and happy life” together. A person gets his or her career moving, and they’re practically guaranteed “a long and happy life.” It is a bittersweet blessing, one that offers a ward against failure, heartache, and death. Like other wards spoken from fantasy, it has no real effect on anyone, but the heart’s desire to see it so is what counts. Even were a person blessed ten thousand times from ten thousand different people who have ten thousand similar hopes, it would affect no change in the grand scheme of events. Life would still be hard, it would still have failures, and heartaches waiting in its wings, spread across its years.

It speaks of good intentions, though, and it speaks of the unwavering optimism of humanity, even in its darkest hour, that people still wish others well. Perhaps then, even, is when it is most needed. It is unfortunate, though, that sometimes those words can come back to haunt. I think of the phrase “a long and happy life,” and I shake my head. There is no such thing as a long life, not in terms the universe would understand, and happiness is so subjective as to be almost meaningless. Where one finds intolerable pain and suffering, others find a paradise. The same is true in the reverse.

When one goes through difficulty and suffering, those words can either be a healing balm, or a cutting razor, salted and rusted, but still able to cleave the flesh of one’s heart with unerring surety, because it is in that time that such words can ring hollow; where they push the reality of one’s situation into one’s own face, and that’s all one can see, and what makes it worse is that it seems the axiom lives on in the lives of people surrounding oneself. It can get very lonely when life is painful, especially when no one else notices. It becomes a burden, a suffocating weight on one’s chest, a claustrophobic cage of aloof despair.

I am of the opinion that those words ring hollow. I find life to be neither long, nor happy, and that if all good things come to an end, how much more painful is it to suffer, and for that to bring about one’s end? One doesn’t even get the benefit of having it good until the end comes, and that in itself, is sorrowful. How many people worked; toiled, sweated, gave their life, and their blood, to help their friends, their family, or even just to eke out a living day by day, only to find themselves at the end of their “long” life with nothing to show for it? How much more so if that life is cut short? It is sad when an old person passes, and they are found alone, and in poverty. Moreso if a young person passes and is found alone, and in poverty. They didn’t even have the opportunity to live a long life and try to glean something from it before passing on to the infinite loneliness, not even a moment’s warmth in all of that cold nothingness.

I have been told many times when an old person passes on, “wow, it’s a shame they died, but they had a good run!”
It is a statement of which with I cannot ever agree. In the lifepan of a billions of years old universe, 70, 80, 90 years of life is not “a long run,” it is a blip. A hundred such lifetimes stringed consecutively from end to end is just a blip. If someone lived 10,000 years, perhaps I would consider such “a long run,” but 80 years? 90 years? No. That’s enough time to see your grandchildren, perhaps your great-grandchildren, and then you are gone, never to see the warmth of the Sun again, never to feel the rain again, never to hold the one you love again. How much more of a torment must this be for a person who is alone? How much so for a person who is aware of this cold, unabashedly real fact?

This kind of thinking can lead to the heart’s callousing. It leads to a wall being built. It leads to love being dulled by time and pain, and the sheer cold despair that is loneliness. The heart’s flame flickers, and is extinguished, and yet the world stands by, and perhaps some look on and say, “they had a good run.”

And yet, even then, it could have been said, some 30, 40, 50, 80 years prior, “I wish them a long and happy life.”

Until next time,


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