Midlife regret can be prevented by relying on our heritage, or legacy, our culture and even our bicultural essence. Allow me to explain. Some people collect stamps, cars, photographs, postcards, books, coins… but what we all unavoidably collect is time in the form of years, and with each birthday we celebrate we add a new one to our collection, sometimes proudly, often with a certain regret, and frequently with forebodings of what may lie ahead.
With our augmenting collection we are more inclined to examine the foundations of our being, of our identity. Every year we become a bit more pensive about where we stand and wonder whether the ground, the foundation of our being, our essence, is the right one. We start examining our depths as persons, as individuals, as human entities, beseeched by the same eternal questions that plague humans at a certain age.
Once we reach fifty, we tend to become more questioning, less sure of issues we never gave a second thought to up to this point. We turn more demanding of ourselves, of society, of friends and family. Superficiality will not do anymore. Triviality and material things satisfy us less and less.
Was it all worth it? Did we steer our lives in the right direction? Did we make the correct choices? Where do we stand? What is the meaning of it all? What can hold us up? We no longer accept shallow answers to these questions.
The answers do not lie in the amount of money we have stashed in banks, or the houses we have bought, or the business we founded, the articles and books we have written. Perhaps we do not even have that, having reached our present age with debts, mortgages, and not a cent to our name. Nevertheless and one way or the other, these queries crop up in maturity.
Our lives may have been lived on the surface, in the routine of daily activities, enslaved by our work, our deadlines, our duties. Yet, not all has been lost because there is depth to our life, rock-solid depth. The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth of our being is Culture, the foundations of our existence, the cornerstone of what we are, which helps us stand erect and proud, our heritage, our traditions, our history, our community. That is why we try hard to instill those values onto our children so that they, too, may drink from the fountainhead of our historical past, of our culture which permits us to belong to a whole bigger than us individually. This idea is comforting, gives us strength and hope and stiffens our will and keeps loneliness away. Our culture gives meaning to our life and forms the backbone of our character and mindset.
You cannot say that your life has no depth, that it is shallow, because it stands on the firm grounds of Culture, of tradition, of heredity. If you are proud of your forefathers, of your history, of your present country, of your old country, nothing has been lost because you can pass those traditions on to future generations: children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, students… quite a feat in this day and age. All this is particularly true of bicultural people, of those who stand on the firm foundations of two backgrounds.
And now I must own that the words I have written are not mine entirely; they belong, in more ways than one, to Paul Tillich, whose book, The Shaking of the Foundations, is a part of my cultural tradition, my spiritual and literary foundation, my heritage, which, among many others, helps me stand in good stead against adversities and meltdowns. And I wanted to pass this on to you. Hope it helps. If not, go ask Jews of different nationalities and backgrounds (American, Sephardic, Turkish, French, German…) and they will explain this clearly.