Taking Stock

From time to time on the great ships which ply the oceans of the world, an officer will walk to the wing of the navigation bridge, raise his sextant to his eye, and “shoot” the sun. He will then make the necessary calculations and determine his exact position. He will then compare his exact position with the position he should be occupying, and, if there’s a variance, make the necessary corrections by steering a slightly different course. This is navigation, and it keeps ships arriving at the ports toward which they’re sailing. They stay on course.

I think humans should do a similar thing. From time to time, I think every human behind should ask himself: “Am I sure I know the destination toward which I’m sailing? What is the point in time I have set as a target date for arrival, and am I now on course?”

It works in navigation, and living is a kind of navigation; it’s getting from where we were, or are, to the point we have decided to reach.

Now, strange as it may seem to you, statistics indicate that the majority of people don’t know where they’re going. They don’t know what they want to accomplish, the point at which to arrive, or have any idea at all about such things.

A human being without a settled purpose, as Carlyle put it one time, is like a ship without a rudder. He is subject to every wind and tide and sails first this way and then that way. If a landfall should appear on the horizon, he would not know what it is – or where it is – or whether or not it is worth sailing toward.

What does he do? He exists. And when the experts have questioned this individual (who makes up by far the great bulk of people in any country), he will usually answer that he is waiting. Waiting for something to happen; waiting for some “opportunity” to come along and carry him or her to some fine paradise on earth, some wonderful but totally unearned earthly nirvana where everything good will happen. It’s a pity, really, that these people – and they’re basically wonderful people – never quite get the word! They never seem to realize that if we don’t know where we’re going, we can’t very well get anywhere.

They don’t seem to understand that a worthwhile goal in life is the most important decision a person can make; nor do they understand that if they would set a goal for themselves, they would in all likelihood achieve it.

Far too many people take the attitude, although they would never admit it, that they have done enough by just being born, and that for the rest of their lives they should see how much they can get, by doing as little as they possibly can.

No one has told them, and they’ll never, or hardly ever, discover it for themselves if no one does, that our rewards in life must and will always be in exact proportion to our service. And that by setting worthwhile goals in life, they can, like the ship at sea, sail successfully from one port to another all the days of their lives and reap the rewards and joy of a life well spent.

Well, anyway, let me suggest that you check your course and your destination from time to time. If you don’t have a destination you can’t very well have a course – and it’s a good idea to get one.

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