I was precisely ten years old when I started pondering the meaning of Life. The very thought of it made me wonder what we were all doing here on earth. What good is living anyway if someday you would eventually die? Why is living so synonymous with dying? How does one reconcile this paradox of Life? How can I live a life I will ultimately have to give up? The whole idea of Life was just too complex for anyone to understand. It seemed like one big web in which all of us were trapped and endlessly struggling to escape. The painful part is that sometimes, we end up being strangled by the web holding us down. Life seemed like an endless journey too wide for anyone to cover within the allotted time. In the end, it appears that we always run out of time. Since there is so much to be done, we are caught up in the struggle of Life, consistently trying to do all that we can within the given space of time.
Then what is the joy of being here if we are not allowed enough time to do all we want? In my opinion, I could see a beginning and an end: the time of our birth, when we were born, and the time of our death, when we die. What I didn’t quite understand were the moments in between, the moments between our birth and our end-, the moments of Life. So, I committed to understanding the real meaning of Life, my lifetime goal. Deep down within me, I knew there was something deeper. There had to be some explanation, a reason for Life, one other than just living and death, a reason other than mere existence.
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The challenge was this: what more is there to live other than just living and dying existence? I discovered I wasn’t the only one with this challenge as I grew. Many others like me were equally battling with this paradox of life-existence, merely living and dying. It was now evident that life truly is complex. It is involved in the sense that it requires a lot of things from us. Once you have Life, sooner or later, you will discover the painful truth about Life. Having Life means existence- being alive, and to be active requires survival- staying alive. This need for survival has been genetically encoded into our very being. It’s a natural inclination to want to survive and remain active. And staying alive (survival) is hard work! The problem I discovered with many over the years while studying and pondering this subject is not whether they want to survive but rather whether they desire more from Life than mere survival.
Let’s face it: Life is one heck of a thing! Pardon my tone, but seriously, who cares about Life anyway? Isn’t it damn too demanding? In my opinion, living is much harder than dying. It takes only a few seconds to break, but it takes much more to live. It takes an entire lifetime to make a life. Why? Because the skills needed to live takes a lifetime to learn. Unlike the school system, where, as a student, you get the lessons first before you are given the test, Life operates the other way around. In Life, you get the trial first and learn the lessons afterward. This is where the problem arises because as long as you are alive, there’s just too much you must put up with. Little wonder, many, when they can’t stand the heat any longer, take the easier path-suicide. For them, that seemed to be the only way out; rather than confronting Life’s challenges, they chose to opt-out. The truth of the matter is that, whether we choose to believe it or not, Life is not fair! The earlier we accept this, the better for us all. Life is not only for pleasure (fun and enjoyment) but also for nurture (growth and development). And when nurture rather than pleasure is the objective, the game’s rules must change. Our focus must shift from existence (a life of ease) to significance (a life of increase) (significance).
In today’s fast-paced world, so much has been misappropriated in the quest for survival. Everyone is on the fast track; the very essence of Life is gradually dwindling off the minds of many. In the rush to meet the daily demands of our personal, social, and corporate lives, so much has been exchanged for a life in its true sense. Life and its real meaning are unclear to many; material possessions, personal accomplishments, and the setting and achievement of goals all tend to be the reason why we are here in the first place. This is the essence of this material: to examine our day-to-day activities and motives and ask ourselves this: are we just here to make a living, or are we here to make a living?
Take a minute out of your busy schedule for the day and ponder on these questions: on what platform am I building my Life? Is it on the things that external factors, like the media, our peers, our parents, or even society as a whole, have conditioned us to believe matter, or those we know deep within us are what matter? If you drop dead today, what good would be the breath you had in you all these years? Of what value would be your Life? If your Life was weighed on some scale, what value would your existence be? What would be the worth of your Life? Would it equal what you want, have, or desire? Would it be similar to those things that would outlive you? Success, fame, power, money, and material possessions are all there is to Life. To be able to answer these questions, you must be willing to sit down and weigh your Life. Before you can accurately consider your Life, we all must understand what Life truly means.
WHAT THEN IS LIFE?
Over the years, people from different works of Life have given life various definitions. Phrases like these: Life is fun, Life is a journey/adventure, Life is a race, and Life is what I make of it are quite familiar to our ears. The problem with these phrases is that people tend to make it the focus of their existence; they make it the center of their lives. While these claims of Life may not be outright disannulled, I must talk about them for proper comprehension so that we can individually better understand each.
Life as Fun: Life in this context is viewed as pleasure; people with this mindset focus on getting treats from Life. Nothing seems to be more important in Life to them than having fun, from constant vacations, going to the movies, relaxation, and partying to everything that ultimately gives them pleasure. They tend to be lackadaisical in everything they do; since Life is all about fun, there is no need to be serious-minded. They tend to be restless, too, because there is no lasting fulfillment in pleasure; it’s only temporary. People with this view of Life are always searching for something new to do that will give them a higher degree of joy or fun. Their aim in Life is to enjoy all there is while alive and die having lived Life to its “fullest”.
Life as a Journey: looking at Life from this perspective has much to do with the end. People who view Life from this angle are not very ambitious; they are submissive to any circumstance that crosses their way and believes that Life has a definite end for them that cannot be altered. Whichever direction Life takes them is what has been ordained for them; if anything happens to them, be it good or bad, they never seem not to worry; if it had to happen at all, then it’s their destiny – what fate has in stock for them. Life is a series of laid-out events that they can neither question nor change. Although they believe in future, they never seek to discover their fate. Their existence is based on the belief that their Life and whatever comes out of it is guided by an infinite intelligence, eventually leading them to a happy ending. All they need to do is relax and enjoy the journey; everything is under control. They never take charge of their lives. Rather than take on the journey of Life, they let Life take them on a journey.
Life as a Race: from the moment they are born, they deem themselves qualified for the race of Life. They want to crawl, walk, and talk all in one day. In all they do, they do in a rush to make it first to the end. Often, the means are sacrificed for the future; the process is subordinated to the result. Learning how it’s done is not their concern; getting it done is all that counts. Life is measured in terms of speed. Who makes it first to the end? The finish line becomes the target and not the deeds; the number of lives or meaningful things one has accomplished. Their main focus is to get in the race and reach the finish line, whether right or wrong. Whether it’s the right race, way, or track is irrelevant to them. A life viewed from this perspective is filled with irregularities. It’s like a child who would not wait to be taught, who goes ahead to sit for the test; what else can you expect if not a failure? It’s only normal because that skipped or shortcut later re-surfaces and demands the due process of time. Life is not automatic. Speed isn’t everything. It’s worse than nothing if it moves you in the wrong direction faster and cheats you out of some of the best moments of the journey. To have a meaningful life takes a conscious and continuous effort and patience. You can’t cut corners and expect to have a full life; in the end, your Life will be cut short. Unless you’re headed in the right direction, increasing your speed will only get you to the wrong place faster. In addition, you’ll miss many of the rich, satisfying moments of living along the way.
Life is what I make of it: Life, generally to people with this mindset, is a marketplace. The only reason we are here is to trade – to get something from Life, to subtract rather than add. Their action is guided by one question: “What’s in it for me?” Life is about them, always seeking their selfish interests. What they can make out of everything, nothing is given freely. If you see them smile, be careful they have a favor to ask. They are self-centered in all they do, always out to get all they can and can all they get. Life is a competition, and their fellow humans are regarded as opponents. Rather than co-habiting cooperatively, they are often competitive; all they care about is “me, myself, and mine”.
As a teenager, I remember sitting in my biology class and listening to my teachern explain the meaning of Life. He said life was the vital component of any organism that made it a living thing. Without Life, all that exists today on the surface of the earth would never have been. So it was concluded biologically that whatever moves, reproduces, grows, feeds, excretes, breaths, feels, and eventually dies has a life. This means Life is that invisible part of any living thing that allows it to carry out all the functions mentioned. Come to think of it, as humans, the moment we come into this world, so much seems to be expected of us. As a child, you’re expected to crawl at a certain time and walk at another. The truth is this: as long as you are alive, you’ll perpetually be subject to expectations. You are liable to Life. Life will continuously make demands on you till you die. As humans, at every given time, we are expected to be doing something. We are expected to accomplish a certain task; there is always an end for us to meet. Life naturally is demanding. We are indebted to Life. Nature has made it so that where there is Life, there are expectations. Some expected end that needs to be met. As long as a tree has Life, it’s expected to bear fruit. As far as the world remains, there will be nights and days; seed time and harvest time will come and go – expectations will never cease. This is the force that binds the world; Life will keep happening, with or without you!