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  • Writer's pictureRobert MacMillan

When You're Over the Sell-by Date

Should one live long enough, one will age. That is a granitic truth. I hold that to be a corollary of the axiom, mortality as a condition of being, and it is just around the corner for me.

Although not dead, I do hear “times’ winged chariot” behind me and find there is not to be sufficient time for all I wish to do and what I wish to be.

I now must gird up my loins and discipline my remaining days to make a lasting difference. I am wiser now than I have ever been (which may not be excessive), and far better read than I ever dreamed.

The sell-by date is a worldly milestone devoid of meaning unless one is a confirmed pragmatist and believes people to be discardable. This deceit causes us to scurry our lives away trying to accomplish stuff that may or may not have value. For instance, I no longer desire to exhaust myself in various ministry activities. Ministry for Christ is infinitely valuable, but He is more interested in me than in the things I can do.

I refuse the Prufrockian paralysis (read The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot) that affects many retirees, causing them to settle for the cloister and the television, measuring their lives in coffee spoons.

I close with the last lines of Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses:

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail: There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me— That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


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