Time, like life, is individually what each makes of it -- as well as what each has been uniquely given to work with. In that way, we are equally bound to our own abilities -- and the ultimate expression of them. It doesn't matter then that we are not born with equal abilities as all the others -- but uniquely our own, and that is what we have to work with.
That is the beginning and ending of every life. With each having their own unique parameters, the relevant question is whether one is growing better -- or worse, as the only sure guideline of how life is going. And that changes with time and experience. It doesn't mean simply being a better or worse version of what one was as a twenty year old -- as the immutable yardstick.
And if in fact one lives their life right, the person at fifty is quite a different person entirely from the one they were at twenty -- knowing very little, and having still their whole lives ahead of them. That is true of any extraordinary growth achieved in any life: the person they became, was unimaginable at any more youthful and inexperienced age.
On the other hand, those who did not grow much, always seemed the same, predictable, repetitive, obsessive-compulsive personalities -- until the day they prematurely met their untimely end. The sadness of such lives, is that they frequently caused great pain and hardship for those affected by those lives. Life was always this constant struggle against their own demons -- and everybody else was collateral damage.
Not to affect others in this disastrous way, is a good and successful life -- from the beginning to the end. That doesn't mean undoing all the good, or taking it with them to the grave -- as also their "entitlement" -- before they go. They leave net positive -- so their posterity, can move beyond those constraints of tradition and custom.
In this way, all of life grows better -- and not simply preying on the less able -- as a zero-sum game simply repeating itself for eternity. There is movement towards better -- and not simply random movement signifying nothing, as though it is the same thing -- and even the height of sophistication and enlightenment. Obviously, that is the mark of despair -- that one cannot distinguish the difference, and thinks that is an achievement in itself.
That would be the failure to distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic, or false. Authenticity is revealed in the truth of that living -- whether it solves the problems of its own living, and not merely one success at the cost of all the others. That is the balance one hopes to achieve -- when one is "firing on all cylinders," and not simply one -- for however long that lasts. Usually it doesn't last too long before it destroys all the others.
Nowhere is it more obvious and spectacular than the short-lived athletic lives that sacrifice everything for that fleeting moment of glory as the one they hope to recapture all the rest of their short-sighted lives. And they are encouraged by those who should know better -- but really don't, until it is too late to do anything about it. Those people just get worse -- without knowing any difference.
When does one irrevocably become one of them? Frequently it is associated with age -- but not necessarily. Some begin at a very young age -- to exhibit this failure to grow and thrive. They may even at one time been very promising. But they never turned the corner -- and with time, grew farther from that promise -- rather than ever actualizing (owning) it.
This burden of self-actualization was passed on to every succeeding generation -- as the unfinished business of humanity -- with no serious intent to actualize it by any particular individual, only in the vague abstraction. Thus, it was just a noble fantasy -- and not the reality of most lives, and especially, the most thoughtful lives. And in fact, the thoughtful life was dismissed as the ultimate fantasy -- rather than the solution to most problems in one's life.
If that focus could be given to one's own living -- instead of distracting it into so many ways of amusements and entertainments that divert that attention, life would have quite a different ending for many more -- rather than the dire prognosis we've been led to accept as the inevitable fate for most.