Part of End in Mind’s mission is to encourage all of us to live with intention and purpose. This means figuring out who we are, what we believe, and how we want to show up in the world. One member of our community spent some time reflecting on just that and penned a lovely and thought-provoking piece for his 45th college reunion report. He has adapted it here for our audience, and we share it in hopes that it will inspire each of us to both consider what’s most important and to live out our core values as we make the most of whatever time we have left.
By Nicholas R. Koch
It is good to write things down. You have a record and to mark a moment in time. I wrote this for my 45th college reunion and for my children. Something to leave behind. Writing makes you think.
I originally wrote this in response to the murder of George Floyd, murdered fewer than three miles from my home. Now that tragedy and those that have followed are further darkened by the horror in Ukraine—where the great grandmother of my children was born. These events, the pandemic, the global lockdown, and the isolation of the past two years have changed everything. They have certainly changed me.
David Brooks, in his book “The Second Mountain,” describes a first mountain we climb, which is about ego, accomplishments and building our resumes. All necessary. But he says many of us eventually discover a second mountain that is even more important—our journey toward enlightenment, interrelationship, service, and meaning. It presents a shift from self-centered to other-centered. This idea of “The Second Mountain” inspired me.
Therefore, Credo—I believe—is what I must write about. Others have written more eloquently. That is okay. Because this is personal. This is what I believe now.
Enough! I believe that as a society and as a planet we must adopt the mindset of enough. We have enough. Enough stuff, enough desires, enough consumption. This destroys us on so many levels—environmental, spiritual, psychological.
Simple! I believe that simple is hard. Simplify your physical life, your emotional life, your life of relationships.
Curiosity. I believe that curiosity is the fountain of youth. It keeps you young, alive and vital. The truly educated never graduate.
When in doubt: For years I have embraced the mantra ‘When in doubt,’ with various endings. When in doubt—take the high road. When in doubt—do the right thing. When in doubt—be kind.
Humility. Humility opens you to listening, learning, growing. In life, one needs a balance of humility and confidence to get through the day, but let the scale tip towards humility.
Gratitude. I believe that gratitude is a lens through which to live your life. You feel that you have enough in your life if you are grateful. Gratitude is an inoculation against greed and desire.
Wisdom. I believe that wisdom means constantly questioning, listening, being open. Bertrand Russell was right when he said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people full of doubts.”
Attention. I believe that where you focus your attention is where you direct your life. You become a master of your life when you learn how to control where your attention goes. New research in neurobiology supports this. As Dr. Dan Siegel, an expert in Interpersonal Neurobiology says, “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows.” By paying attention, we can literally wire ourselves into each other.
Relationships. I believe that relationships are the most important form of wealth. Cherish, value and nurture your relationships. The adage, “To have a friend, be a friend” is true. It requires intention and action. Love is not what you say. Love is what you do. (It is still good to say it, though.)
Love. Learn love. Love is a choice. Despite the charm of Disney, those films foisted a fiction upon us. There is not a Love Fairy. It requires intention and attention. That is all you will have on your death bed. If you are lucky, you will be surrounded by people you love and who love you. That is ALL that matters.
May the traumas of the past two years and the present moment drive us to be better, kinder, more aware and more compassionate. To ourselves, to each other and to the world.