I was recently in Raingely, Maine, which is a small town surrounded by mountains and a huge lake. I saw a picture of an Inn that existed there about 100 years ago. It was huge, dwarfing any building that is in the town today. The dining room served 350. It was a fancy place for people of means to retreat to during the hot summer. There is nothing left of it, save what an archeologist might find: No building remnants, no ornate furniture, no lacy drapes, no fine clothes that people dressed in for dinner. The pretense is gone, so too, the social status of the patrons. Gone are the impressive entrances and the polite conversation. Gone are the names. Gone are the people. What was all the fuss about?
I called my elderly mother that night. She was spending the evening home by herself as she often does. Her plans? Nothin. My mother lives in a retirement community on a street I call Widow Lane. I suspect the other womens plans on that street for the evening were similar to my mothers. My father used to live in that retirement community before their street became Widow Lane. He used to hang out with the other men: going for walks, playing pool, cards, and dining as a group with their wives. All of them are gone now. The only reminder is a bench on their street with a plaque on it with each of their names engraved.
Life should not be a vain experience. Our time here should count for something. Life is too short and fragile to indulge in glorifying yourself, to think the world revolves around you, to inflate your ego. The vast majority of us will not be remembered for very long after we leave. We will be forgotten, like those people who relaxed at the Inn in Raingely long ago. It doesnt matter if they were wealthy and famous at the time. It is the way of things, affecting all life forms. There is no point in strutting around the world with an air of self-importance like I imagine some at the Inn did back in their prime. If we happen to live long enough, we may spend our old age like the people at my mothers retirement community do now. How can they not feel lonely when they have watched many of their friends and husbands die? How special can they feel when they live such quiet, isolated lives?
It is good while you are still young to pay attention to how old people live. It is instructive to be mindful of the generations that are gone, the ancestry that no one can remember, the civilizations that have risen to glory only to be grounded into dust. In this way it is easier to know your place at an early age and be humble, do your work with graciousness, overcome your karma as best you can, use your time in such a way that you feel it worthwhile, and live well.