With or Without You, Life Goes On

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Robert Ringer


I never cease to be amazed by the uncertainties of life. Americans have been cruising along for years, enjoying the nonexistent economic recovery, rooting for their favorite thug teams, and piling evermore vacations, cars, and all kinds of frivolous and discretionary goodies onto their credit card balances.

But times they are a-changin’ — beheadings in the American heartland … ebola, enterovirus D68, and whooping cough … vanishing health insurance to go along with vanishing doctors … the Russian bear growling and once again rising up on its hind legs … a nuclear Iran … a ban on words and ideas that were part of mainstream vocabulary and thinking not that long ago … to name but a few of the more sobering items in the news.

Just what the hell is going on here, anyway? What happened to The Waltons, Charlie’s Angels, All in the Family, and The Cosby Show? What happened to “the era of big government is over?” What happened to the shining city on the hill?

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Heck, even The Mick left us nearly twenty years ago, along with Johnny U and a long list of other sports legends who did quite well without wearing girly man hairstyles.

And from the silver screen, real men like Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Stewart, William Holden, and John Wayne must be shaking their heads in Hollywood Heaven at today’s whining, face-in-the-crowd, childlike actors.

As I write this, life-threatening diseases and ISIS have been sharing the spotlight. ISIS, of course, is only a problem because the civilized world chooses to allow it to be so. But killer diseases are more problematic. They’ve been around since time immemorial. In fact, a lot of very smart folks believe that pathogenic microbes may have played a major role in wiping out the dinosaurs, probably with some help from the infamous asteroid impact in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula some 65 million years ago.

And let us not forget the Black Death (bubonic plague, or simply “the plague”) that killed an estimated twenty-five to seventy-five million people (depending upon the historian you read) in the 14th century. The culprit, Yersinia pestis, is an airborne bacterium that is still around today.

Interestingly, biological anthropologist Dr. Sharon N. DeWitte did an extensive study on the remains of about 600 pre- and post-Black Death Londoners and found that people who survived the Black Death, as well as their descendants, lived longer than those who lived prior to the onset of the disease.

Of course, it can be argued that a lot of other factors, particularly the improved standard of living, contributed to the increased longevity, but DeWitte’s study does seem to lend support to Nietzsche’s contention that “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

But infectious diseases are just one of a long list of things that make life in today’s nonsensical, uncertain world an unsettling experience. For example, The Big One — a giant-sized asteroid colliding with earth or a solar flare (a violent eruption on the sun’s surface that can be equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding simultaneously) could hit us at any time and destroy all life on earth in short order.

To put all this in perspective, I find it sobering to review Carl Sagan’s “cosmic calendar.” As Sagan explained it, “If the eons that comprise the lifetime of Earth were compressed into the span of a single year … recorded history would occupy the last thirty seconds of the last day of such a year.”

Based on Sagan’s cosmic calendar, one could justifiably argue that mankind has not played a significant role in the history of the universe. But not so fast. As youthful as mankind may be, he still possesses the most powerful force in the universe: human intelligence.

Only human intelligence can collect, share, and act on information. Our brain has made it possible for us to make tools, create products to improve the quality of our lives, replace many of our body parts, and, unlike the dinosaurs, cure diseases (or at least we used to be able to cure them).

We can also solve complex problems, think abstractly, and use language. Above all, we can reflect on ourselves and our very existence, and, most important, we can take action to actually better our existence. Pretty cool, I’d say.

That said, the plethora of fearful stuff in today’s news reminds me of a time in my younger years when I stayed up all night reading Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Scared the hell out of me. It was the first time I had ever wondered if there was any point to working and planning for the future, given that the end of the world was just over the horizon.

That was forty years ago, but, lo and behold, I’m still here. And so, too, is the world. True, it’s not the world we once knew, but, in all its politically correct, decadent glory, it keeps right along spinning on its axis. Ditto with life. Even though it’s coming apart at its moral seams, it has a habit of finding ways to keep on going.

So while it’s important not to allow normalcy bias to lull us into a comfort zone that prevents us from being prepared for crises such as a rapidly spreading infectious disease, major terrorist attacks on the homeland, or the death of our power grid, the empirical evidence suggests that it’s also important to keep moving forward with our lives.

I suppose it’s possible that America could one day be governed by Sharia Law, the world could be overwhelmed by a pandemic, or some nutcase country could start an all-out nuclear war. But, as with an asteroid collision or solar flare, any of these events could be twenty, fifty, or a hundred years away — or they may never happen at all.

In the meantime, life goes on. And as it does, it’s a good idea to be present — both physically and mentally. It seems to me that being left behind could be a very lonely existence.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

18 responses to “With or Without You, Life Goes On”

  1. edda says:

    Mr. Ringer opines masterfully – above – on the 'uncertainties of life.' Due to personal events in my life – as well as the political, economic, financial, celebrity and religious squalor of our present-day culture – I share his insights and am also amazed by the seeming 'randomness' of it all. Mr. Ringer reflect the sure voice of one who knows where the taproot lies: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

  2. Jurg says:

    Awesome…I think about this stuff 24/7 – and I worry way WAY too much! Very stupid of me…could probably benefit from a lobotomy…and remove the worry wort. If I didn't kids I'd be "much better off." Would do it all over again, but I think you understand. Yeah, live in the now, love your family, cherish one's friends, try to always do the right thing…wish I did. Txs!

  3. John says:

    I remember in high school when the movie, ‘The Day After’ came out. I obsessed endlessly about nuclear war. I read every book I could get my hands on about nuclear weapons, their immediate effects and their long term effects. I worried about nuclear war incessantly.

    And then I asked my dad about it. He said, as Mr. Ringer opines above hat yes he worried about it. But that it was going to happen whether he worried about it or not and so would not put his life on hold worrying about things that may or may not happen. And that approach to life has helped me focus on living mine without getting carried away with the grimness in today’s headlines.

    Reasonable precaution, yes. Allowing the grim reality of the world to dictate my every thought and action? Absolutely not.

    • RealitySeeker says:

      I had two dads. A city dad and a country dad. My country dad spent years in the U.S. special forces as an underwater demolition expert; they called them UDT back then. He went on to be part of the dozens of nuclear tests post WWII. My country dad is still alive and collecting hazard pay from Uncle Sam for his contribution and exposure to the nuclear testing in the Pacific circa WWII and post wartime. His brother spent a lifetime in the service, part of which was classified.

      You, John, and your dad don't know how close America came to an oh-shit moment, where the "day after" ment no day after for hundreds of millions.

      Fast forward: President Barack Ebola has started Cold War II. Think about the ramifications for the next generation. This time the human race may not make it.

      My country dad's family was part of a group that didn't obsess, they prepared themselves well to restart civilization. It was actually quite common for people to have fallout shelters back in the day.

  4. Phil says:

    Great read.

  5. Robby Bonfire says:

    The antidote to the Bubonic Plague was simply the introducing of the domestic cat onto the European continent. Perhaps some of our current complex problems can be successfully addressed, with this in mind.

    • cara says:


  6. RealitySeeker says:

    I think this is my favorite post by RJR so far this year.

    "Life……….it has a habit of finding ways to keep on going."

    Yes, but life also has a way of ending en masse or at least being replaced by another dominate form of life.

    Humankind has attained the complexity necessary for the human race to extinct itself. That's why voices of sanity need to speak up both loudly and persuasively, again and again, relentlessly, so life can go on until that glorious day in which mankind reaches the stars. Once there, maybe then, when some of our offspring finally reach that place far, far away somewhere out there beyond the constraints of primitive collectivism, mankind can then become free and unencumbered enough to reach his full potential.

    "The most powerful force in the universe: human intelligence."

    True that, unless, of course, there is at least one God hanging out on the dark side of the moon..

    The way I see it, and I think I see it very well, is "human intelligence" offers humankind unlimited potential— the kind that goes way, way beyond our imagination. This potential includes becoming godlike; I can foresee a time when humankind discovers how to live forever, rearrange matter, change the orbit of planets, rearrange solar systems and build machines that actually slow time to name just a few potentialities. Nothing is impossible for humankind to achieve given enough time. 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years from now humankind can and shall become not only a perfecter of the human race, but a creator of new races which far surpasses the mindless primitives we are now………Unless……………..

    ………Unless complexity gets the better of us before some of us spread out into space. "Life" has become so complex that complexity in and by itself could become a catalyst for human extinction.

    When I was just a boy my father set me down to watch the movie "Forbidden Planet". Being just a boy who was wholly interested in science fiction at the time, the special effects, the "monsters" from the id, the vast alien-underground and Robie the Robot kept me riveted to my seat. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Dr. EDWARD MORBIOUS, aptly played by Walter Davis Pidgeon, made a lasting impression on me to the point that he actually expanded my imagination. After the movie I received a brief, articulate lecture from my father on the moral of the story and the lesson we can all learn from the Krell. Homeschooling at its best.

    It's a lesson I've never forgotten; a valid lesson to this day……..

  7. Serge says:

    One hour worrying is one hour subtracted from life. Life is short enough and I'm going to make it a great day no matter what.

  8. american real says:

    I no longer waste time on the media propaganda — look closely and you'll see the tell-tale sings. Green symbols anyone?

  9. Richard Lee Van says:

    I agree that this is certainly one of Mr. Ringer's most important essays pointing out the UNCERTAINTY OF HUMAN LIFE. I often say that is one of or the greatest human weakness… the inability to live with UNcertainty. Or, life is open-ended. We just cannot know for sure what is next, or, even what is now. If we get used to living with uncertainly, open-endedly, we will be way better off! Those overly-wedded to their -isms have the hardest time of it AND maybe make the most trouble for people who do not share their particular, even idiosyncratic, beliefs.

  10. Richard Lee Van says:

    Living in THE NOW helps. Easy to say, hard to do. An interpreted past and thoughts about a probable future also help of course.

  11. edda says:

    The poet, John Keats, captured this in his now infamous phrase, 'negative capability' – when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.' I find it tough to be a romantic these days.

  12. shosho says:

    I'm a Nigerian and a great fan of Robert Ringer.As regards life and happiness,I remember a quote by Gene Simmons told to him by his mother who was a holocaust survivor.'Any day above ground is a good day.'

    • writingbykendra says:

      Here here. Months ago, one of my co-workers asked me why I always answered with a cheerful, "Good morning!" whenever she called to give me my next re-delivery. I said, "I'm not pushing up daisies." She thought that was cool.

  13. Jean says:

    One of life's lessons that I've learned is that worrying about anything does nothing to fix the problem, but fixing what seems to be an insignificant problem in my life acts to resolve a considerable amount of worry about what seem to be larger and insurmountable forces. The term "responsible" seems to fit here – how one responds to personal issues impacts how one responds to many of life's curve balls.

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