By Jim Tune
Back in 1966 the folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel released an album called Sounds of Silence. The album was a best-selling collection of reflective songs with contemplative lyrics. It has been preserved by the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” work of art.
For that album, Paul Simon penned the words to a song about a much-admired philanthropist who was envied by all. “Richard Cory,” a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, was adapted by Simon into a song that ends with the startling news of the philanthropist committing suicide.
My grandmother used to grimly tell me, “Don’t get old, Jimmy.” I would try to respond with levity, reminding her that getting old definitely beats the alternative, or with the joke that the more you complain the longer God lets you live!
When I was in my 20s, Grandma would say she’d give anything to be my age. When I was young, it was hard to understand this desire. Now I’ve accumulated some stuff. I own a home and there is some money in the bank. I own a decent car. I have a few things that my 20-something self might have envied.
I also have legs that can’t skate like they used to, a chronic wrist injury from trying to break the fall of my motorcycle when I dropped it on a slow turn, and unaccounted for aches and pains when I get up in the morning.
If you are 20 or 30 years old, you have energy, a keen, young, inquiring mind, and the bulk of your life’s journey ahead of you. The Internet has revolutionized communication. Human life span is increasing. Thanks to medical advancement, cures and therapies are available to treat diseases that were once a death sentence. Transportation to anywhere on the planet is relatively cheap and easily available.
Use these advantages. Don’t waste time on what you don’t have. Never envy the old rich man and never envy your peers. I’ve met a few men like Richard Cory in my life. The temptation is to look at their lives and grumble, like Simon whose song cursed his life and poverty, wishing he could be Richard Cory.
The people you are jealous of might not be as they appear. The psalmist writes: “Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life” (Psalm 49:16-19).