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The Resignation That Living Brings

Susan M - October 4, 2006

And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
They went flying around in the rain
And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered
And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings

– Jackson Browne, “Before the Deluge”

Have you experienced the resignation that living brings? I have.

What have you done about it? Should anything be done about it?

Is it just the way life goes? When you’re young, you want to tackle the world. But as you get older, you lose that drive. Because tackling the world hurts. And it wears you out. And you grow resigned.

When I sat down to write this post, I was hoping someone would have some inspiring words for me. Either that, or maybe I was just going to resign myself to feeling resigned. But I realized I left a couple lines off the verse I quoted above:

They exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in the moment they were swept before the deluge

I don’t want to be that person who is content to be resigned. So how do you keep your passion for life—for living the gospel, for your work, for your talents, for your causes—alive?

Two phrases keep coming to me. The first is “endure to the end.” That sounds so passive, doesn’t it? Why do we have to endure? Why can’t we fight, laugh, dance to the end? Maybe because it takes emotional energy we just don’t have. The second is “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” I think that’s what I want and need to be. I’ve got good causes all around me—my family, the gospel, friends, some pet causes. But how anxiously engaged am I?

How do I become more so?


  1. These are great questions. I wish I knew the answer. I’ll check back to see what comes up.

    I heard a general answer once that I agree with. If you want someone to change, increase their testimony. That may be a key. Maintaining a high value on certain things.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 4, 2006 @ 9:19 am

  2. Wow. Tough life questions Susan. It seems the Mormon saying to deal with this issue is “carry on”. I like the Southern version a little better though “keep on keepin’ on”.

    These sorts of philosophical questions are what drive me to dig into theology and and metaphysics. Not only do we need to answer the “what should we do” questions in life but also the “how and why should we do it” questions.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 4, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  3. “Great men are like meteors – designed to burn so that the world may be lighted.”

    Napolean Bonaparte

    Comment by Seth R. — October 4, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

  4. More pop singer wisdom, this from Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon:
    “Keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die. ”

    It’s so easy to let your life be ruled by inertia. I often feel in a rut. There’s always something external to me—poverty, debt, family situation, oppression by the Man, etc.— that I can point to as reasons for not being anxiously engaged, for not reaching out, for not making big things happen, but they’re just excuses for letting inertia rule. It’s the lazy, safe way.

    Comment by Tom — October 4, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  5. I remember a story that Elder Ballard told at a regional confrence in Spokane. He said that he had just had some major surgery that put him out of commission for a while. In his recovery he asked President Hinckley if he could reduce his travelling to x-amount and his firesides to x-amount, etc. and President Hinckley interrupted him and said, “I want you to burn out, not fade away.” (I still don’t know exactly how I feel about that)

    Comment by Rusty — October 4, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

  6. Glad to know President Hinckley is a Neil Young fan. :)

    Comment by Chad — October 4, 2006 @ 6:52 pm

  7. I thought Pres. Hinckley said “I’d rather you wear out then rust out.”

    Possibly linked to “Forget yourself and go to work”?

    Comment by Bret — October 5, 2006 @ 1:43 am

  8. Susan, I think our mortal bodies grow tired, and tired bodies ache for rest. It’s very hard to strive for perfection when one is tired; more often, one simply compromises.

    But maybe, just maybe, acceptance of our “lot” with humility and grace is true paradise. It’s the very core meaning of maturity.

    Acceptance, not resignation, is really the key here.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — October 5, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  9. This is funny. You’ve helped me realize I see my children as a cause of becoming worn out, and the solution to it as well. I end many a day physically, mentally, and emotionally drained from attending to their constant needs. And yet they are what keeps me going — they keep me young. I hijack their “brave and crazy wings of youth” and we go “flying around in the rain” together.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    Comment by Amy — October 6, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  10. “keep on keepin’ on”, for me, lacks any zeal. It conjures images of cows pulling a plow through the clods of dirt.

    For me, I like to think that the point of life it more comparable to surfing…lots of lulls where there’s just not a lot of action, and then very now and then a mountainous wave starts to rise up, and you have to work like the devil to get to the top of it. Then, as reward for all your efforts, you get to enjoy a great view and WHAT A RIDE!…all for a few brief moments. Of course, sometimes you crash, burn, and wipe out…timing was off or you just didn’t find your balance. It is then that your family or friends drag your body out of the water up to the beach, and look after you until you’re recovered and ready to jump back in the frey again.

    That’s why it’s so important to have people and things in your life that matter enough for you to invest your heart in them…it comes back to you.

    Comment by Sonnet — October 9, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

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