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Title: The True Measure Of Success



Author & Contributor: Ken Livingston

Date: Thursday, June 29, 1995

Copyrighted March, 1999. All Rights Reserved.


The True Measure Of Success


- by Ken Livingston

It has been said that when one is faced with the certain reality of imminent death their mind becomes crystally focused. Trivial and mundane matters of life yield to those succinct and final matters of one's uniquely personal existence. The rapidly diminishing inventory of that life's allotment of deeds, actions, breath, and final words become of supreme value.

And, so, it is commonly accepted that with most, and in these individuals, truth triumphs. Incorrect impressions, falsehood, ambivalence, and all those human characteristics of false identity, built up around one's personal presentations for their perceived character and reputation, are exchanged for certainty of understanding. Protective shades erected as needed over a lifetime, no longer significant, are finally lowered, allowing the light of truth to shine upon one's at last bared soul for all to finally see as it truly has been and now is. If one is given the opportunity for final reflection, pretense, if it existed, having no more value, releases its human hostage. And, sometimes, if an observer looks carefully, within the coldest of hearts can be seen the vestiges of worth given to all humans in their beginning.

In these individuals, we observe intently their actions, listen carefully to their words, and hang desirously on their every nuance, not wanting to miss a single morsel in the final moments of our shared human contact, collecting, cataloging, and associating every detail for greater meaning to be given the life passing before us, and greater understanding for our own personal benefit. It is as though we are given the final pieces of a life's puzzle that, when inserted, will disclose its true identity. What we observe and learn appeals to our reason and common sense with such clarity that any skepticism we may have held is quickly dismissed and we assent to the validity of what we glean from them. Invariably, those thoughts and ideas that are of supreme importance to those individuals, are desired by them to be embraced by we who surround them in their final moments of life. Therefore, when the words of one's life are weighed for greater credibility, it is commonly accepted that their final may carry the day.

Since early man, writers and biographers, of both the famous and infamous, have made it their life's work to document for posterity these last human deeds and words. Those who have lived before us, if not all, at least enough for verification, a life of sterling integrity, the actions and words of their final days or moments are in complete harmony with that life. There is no contradiction, only a synthesis of its critical purpose and points. However, in one whose life has not been lived as exemplarary, those final observations stand in glaring contrast. In most, long shunned truth finally rises to the surface, supplanting a life of opposite perceptions, either in falsely held ideas, or sometimes, a whole life lived around that falsity.

Of the former, and at one end of the human spectrum, are the examples of men and women of great renown, those who stand as paragons of human virtue and character. Among these are seen the great leaders of and contributors to any society in every generation, as well as those with whom we all have had daily contact in our own lives: parents, teachers, community benefactors, and so on. Of the latter, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, are corrupt, immoral, and unjust leaders, the perpetrators of great crimes against society, and those who have lived in our own neighborhoods who have been antagonists of all that is just among us: an unscrupulous family member, co-worker, neighbor, local leader, etc. Without naming any specifically, from our individual personal knowledge and experiences, examples of both the former and latter quickly come to mind.

All of us, with varying degree, look curiously upon this human spectrum, using it as a gauge to identify our own respective places. Typically, the former inspire us to live our lives in such a way as to move us toward that more just and desirable end, away from the behavior of the latter that would draw us down a path to, at the least, a life at odds with truth, and at worst, a tragic life of unrealized potential, waste, and ruin.

These are the choices, the struggle of life, that confront us daily. At times, we are triumphant; at others, we fail. But always, we should be diligently cautious not to become complacent in our successes, nor resign to our inevitable momentary failures. Although certainly accommodating a profound sense of wonder and joy in this human journey, celebration should be reserved to the final victory, never acknowledging defeat as long as there is opportunity for change.

This is the true measure of success, not whether we have won or lost in our latest attempts, for, on occasion we as humans are destined to both, but how well we engage the struggle of life and the aspiration to our best potential of human worth. In the end, this alone will determine our historic place on this spectrum we call, life.

- Ken Livingston

The Man In The Glass

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