Goodbye to another Christmas and welcome to another new year. In my eighty second year I have developed from a tiny human being, knowing nothing about this world up to today when I have reached nearly a full lifetime of experiences. It is quite one thing to think about plans for the future when we are young, with what seems to be an endless stretch of time before us, and how we think when at last we realise that we have very little time left.
When we are young we know nothing about the future. We make decisions from the basis of very little knowledge of both the world around us and and even less about what kind of people we are. No-one can know the future but every one of us has individual potentials inherited from our ancesters through the particular genes that we possess. How we use those genes for our own benefit, and for our fellow beings, depends on our making use of our powers to get to know what our real potentials are.
In order to do this we need to learn to observe what is going on around us and inside us. Some kind of guidance is needed but we need to make sure that we are moving in the right direction for ourselves. It is vital that in order to make the best use of our lives we must gradually learn the truth from the false. No-one can teach you this except yourselves. The biggest impediment is the set of beliefs that we pick up from our cultures.
Inevitably we are hampered because of the influence of the society in which we live. Very few people have the courage to work things out for themselves from fear of loneliness. It is easier to fit in with others in order to feel safe. The greatest contributors to universal knowledge work on their own and do not ask for help. Yet they need help but know that the best kind comes from the discoveries of individuals who have lived before us. Not everyone is a genius, but I believe that most of us have the potential to contribute something to the common good. The biggest mistake we make is taking on other people’s ideas without question. Everything should be examined. If they are not, we are liable to turn into bigots who are terrified of changing their minds. For example, when Germany was in dire straits, after World War 1, such a man as Hitler would never have risen to power if enough people recognised what sort of man he was. Erich Fromm was a great writer who recognised in the late thirties the dangers ahead, expressed them very clearly in his book “The Fear of Freedom”. What a wonderful title! It epitomises the fact that to make full use of freedom, we must take full responsbility for ourselves. Any thinking person who has read Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” would spot the dangers. Had there been more people who did, Hitler would not have been accepted.
My aim for the rest of my life is to tell about my lifelong experiences and the uses I made of them. From my earliest remembered days I have always noticed what was going on around me and tried to make sense of it: especially the way people talk to each other. I have always done what I wanted to do and refused not to go along with any ideas that I thought might be harmful. As I look back on my life I realised that I had achieved everything I wanted to do and it gives me much satisfaction. I took risks that most people would not take and on the whole they were successful. The reason for this is that I always enjoyed what I was doing.
My main aim is to show to young people that they have more power to do what they want than they think. Far too many reach old age and are disappointed about what they have not done. Think for youself, do not accept what you don’t want. Whatever the pressure stick to what you think is right. That is the best and only way to achieve self-confidence.