ralph-waldo-emerson_breathed-easierSaw this Emerson quote and it triggered one of my recurring thoughts. I’ve often heard people complain their life is meaningless. However, no life is meaningless, no matter how inconsequential it might seem.

For instance, what if Abraham Lincoln’s great-great-great grandfather decided is life was meaningless or worthless or too much of a mess to bother with anymore and ended it before he fathered Lincoln’s great-great grandmother. It seems that history as we know it would have been changed.

Or there’s Harry S Truman. In 1925, when he was 41 years old he was selling auto club memberships, but before that he’d been voted out of office as a judge and prior to that seen his haberdashery business fail and gone bankrupt. Eventually he became Vice-President, then President of the United States in 1945 when he turned 61. What if he decided life wasn’t worth living back there in 1925 when things might have looked rather bleak to him?

It’s been estimated that 99% of us live what could be considered inconsequential, meaningless lives; yet we have no idea who our descendants might turn out to be, nor do we have any idea what might be in store for us around the next corner. Life is littered with Harry Truman’s, people who found success in their 40s, 50’s, 60s and 70s.

  • Charles Darwin may have begun developing his theory of evolution while in his 20s, but he didn’t publish On the Origin of the Species until after he turned 50.
  • Joseph Conrad began writing when he was 36, but didn’t become successful and known as a great writer until he was in his 50s.
  • Harland David Sanders, Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, but he was 60 when he opened the first restaurant.
  • Orville Redenbacher began selling his popcorn in 1970, at age 67. 
  • Allan Rickman, better known as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, was 47 when he got his first movie role.
  • Julia Child was 50 when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published.
  • Ray Kroc was 59 when he bought McDonald’s.

Then there’s Abraham Lincoln. He was a run-of-the-mill politician who lost more often than he won when he was elected President after his 51st birthday. I could continue this on and on, but the truth is we never know how meaningful or valuable our life really is.

My parents lived through the depression of the 1930s and I’m sure there were some pretty grim times for them, but… to say the least… I’m very happy they never gave up.

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