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Secrets of vitality.

The pursuit of life. Vitality. What is it? The Oxford says: power, hold on life, the ability to continue the vital functions, persistent energy.

Now, persistent energy-what is it? Oxford says: to continue firmly or absolutely (in opinion, course, doing) especially against remonstrance.

What do I consider my vitality at an age when I should be displaying better sense?--Well, what is it? First, physical vitality: that which makes me clean that room--dig that flower bed.--Well, now, come on, Kath, you didn't actually dig it. You couldn't. You just could not step on that fork hard enough with your messed-up ankle.--Well, yes, brother Bob is visiting and he dug it--then in I got. My hands are strong--I can sift and get out the old crab-grass roots and dump in the topsoil and humus and peat and manure and mix them with the sand. I can crawl through the flower bed--weed. Yes, and I can crawl along the floor--do all the "under things" work. Limited vitality, certainly, but better than nothing.

The pursuit of pleasure. New rules for tennis: hit it to me; I play the singles court, you the doubles; second bounce is O.K. for me--better than nothing.

The pursuit of excitement. Careful on balance. Remember when I used to jump from the four-foot railing on the pier to the end of the springboard and do a 1-1/2?--Oh, yes. Yes, I did. Now....the other day I swam over to the pier, and I started to walk out that springboard--semi-low tide--my God. I nearly fell off. So high: eight feet. So narrow: 16 inches. Someone! Please hold my hand. But I got to the end--I dove... No, that didn't bother me. Hadn't bothered me to dive off that boat in On Golden Pond. First dive in 30 years. Diving--part of my lifestyle. I did it. I can do it. But now--wow! Well, physical vitality--lifting, crawling, hitting, running--we can't push the cart faster than the cart is capable of going. Now we try or we don't try; that is vitality of the spirit.

No vitality: I don't believe I can even think about that. I do not have the push to do that. I would like to do it, though. But I don't believe I can. I'm not going to try--no-it's no use.

Vitality: Oh, yes, I'll do that--absolutely. I'll do it. No question. I'll try.

Lack of vitality is a terrible lack. It can mean that you just don't try. Sometimes you have a choice--to try or not to try. And you can't make yourself try. It's that negative attitude and just a terrible habit. Well...I just...can't...

Wait a minute. Don't say "well" to me. No. No excuses. Think of the big ones: Franklin Roosevelt had infantile paralysis. It didn't keep him down. Nothing could. Only death. He worked with what was left him: his head, his humor, his heart. And it made him a much richer and more generous creature. He'd had an experience very few have. It made him sensitive to the desperation of man. He had a project.

Helen Keller: deaf, blind. She pursued life. She had a project. She made new senses.

Mother Teresa: she is unique. No self problems; she lives entirely for others.

Joan of Arc: she had a vision; she pursued it.

George Bernard Shaw: he worked and worked and worked. He said he only hoped that when he died he would be all used up. (Being a fan of his, I don't like that man who is whispering"Well, he certainly was.")

Nathan Hale: hanged at 21. "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Winston Churchill: "We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." It's thrilling, isn't it? That pursuit. He led us all.

I remember when I was in Hollywood, early on, in the '30s. I used to play tennis with Bill Tilden. He was absolutely fascinating on the subject of winning. He said you could spot a winner. And you could also spot a very fine player who was not destined to be a winner.

It's how hard you try, isn't it? The pursuit. I was always impressed by the men who were thrilled by the possibilities of the motion picture and who worked to make it the extraordinary business it is. Sam Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn. They were brilliant businessmen--very hard workers. But inside, there was a sensitive and romantic yearning for the magic of love and laughter and the pursuit of whatever seemed to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

We're surrounded by opportunities, aren't we? Isn't it exciting? Little opportunities, big opportunities. All of us. How can we make it better? How can we make it best? For him. For her. For us. The pursuit of perfection. We may not get there, but we can try. That's vitality. That's the pursuit of life itself. Isn't it?
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Author:Hepburn, Katharine
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1987
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