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The Secret of Life

By Joe Rector

Most people raved about Inaugural performances by Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson, and I thought they both sang inspiring versions of the songs presented, even though some carped about Beyonce’s lip-syncing. The truth is that James Taylor’s performance resonated the most with me.
I searched for his version of “America” on iTunes without success. Instead, I discovered a song. The title is “Secret of Life,” and it was recorded in 1977 as part of Taylor’s album “JT.” However, it’s new to me, even though I’m not sure how I missed it for nearly forty years. The jarring impact of the words has made me want to share it with others.
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” The lyrics go on to say that none knows how we got to the top of the hill. Most of us work ourselves into exhaustion in an effort to get ahead. Before we blink an eye, half of life has passed us by. It’s then that the realization that we’re at the midpoint comes crashing down.
The next lines says, “since we’re on the way down, we might at well enjoy the ride.” Anyone who is at this point needs to take a breath and make the most of each day of the rest of life. Work is for survival, but at what point does work become one’s identity more than a means to an end?
It’s difficult for folks to kick back and relax. The daily grind is part of a life for as much as fifty years for some. Lying in the bed and allowing the morning to spread across consciousness instead of having it banged in the ears by an alarm is difficult. Internal clocks wake us up at the same time after a while. Too often, a new day is met with a growl and a frown. The second half of life should be faced with joy and gratitude and excitement.
Many of us spend the day chasing something to do. To be industrious and productive has been beaten into our psyches for so long that failure to be such leads to guilt. Lounging or playing or having fun isn’t allowed. Taylor tells us that as we slide down, not to try too hard to slide. Isn’t it true that most of us tackle fun as if it were a job? Vacations are planned, and each activity must be marked off the to-do list. Leave the list behind and just enjoy each moment.
He adds that “time isn’t really time; it’s all in your point of view and how you feel about it.” I, for one, am glad to hear this. For a long time I’ve professed to be a 20 year-old trapped in a 60 year-old body. Oh, we all have the aches and pains that accompany aging bodies, but our attitudes should be the same as they’ve been for years. We need to keep active and young in mind and spirit. That old saying is “you’re only as old as you feel” can be a guiding principle as we age.
“The secret of life is in opening of your heart.” Maybe this is the key. We love our families. Perhaps the time is here for loving others. The awareness that each of us possesses a piece of God and that each of us is a child, a creation, of that power might help us to love others. For sure, we won’t like every individual with whom we have contact, but realizing those common beginnings should help us to offer kindness or a smile to every single person in our worlds. Our existence on this planet could be much smoother and more enjoyable with a true sharing of love.
I’m behind the curve on this old James Taylor song. Still, discovering it brings lots of happiness. I’ve bought the iTune version and have it loaded on my computer and iPhone. Listening to it and saying a prayer are good ways to begin each morning.
By the way, I’ll continue looking for that Inaugural song. That original search led to the discovery of some wonderful things.

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