I was precisely ten years old when I started pondering about the meaning of life. The very thought of it, made me wonder what on earth were we all doing here? 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? I mean, how can I possibly really live a life that I will eventually have to give up-lose? To me, the whole idea of life was just too complex for anyone to really understand. It seemed like one big web in which all of us are trapped and are endlessly struggling to get out from. The painful part is that sometimes we end up being strangled by the very web that has been holding us down. Life seemed like an endless journey too wide for anyone to cover within the allotted time. It seems in the end, 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 that we want? In my own 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 death-the moments of life. So I made a commitment of 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 dying-a reason other than mere existence.
The challenge was this; what more is there to life other than just living and dying-existence? As I grew, I discovered I wasn’t the only one with this challenge. Many others like me were equally battling with this paradox of life-existence; merely living and dying. It was now evident, life truly is complex. It is complex 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. Which is; that having life means existence-being alive and to be alive 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-stay alive. And staying alive (survival), as we’ve come to know is hard work! The problem as I discovered with many over the years while studying and pondering over 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. I mean, it takes only a few seconds to die, but it takes a whole lot more to live. In fact, 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 round. In life, you get the test 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 have to 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 the challenges of life they choose 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); it is also for nurture (growth and development). And when nurture rather than pleasure is the objective, the rules of the game have to 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 up with the daily demands of our personal, social and corporate lives, so much has been exchanged for life in its true sense. Life and its real meaning is unclear to many, material possessions, personal accomplishments, the setting and achievements of goals all tend to becloud the reason why we are here in the first place. This is the essence of this material, to examine our day to day activities, our motives and ask ourselves this; are we just here to make a living or we are here to make a life?
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Take a minute out of your busy schedule for the day and ponder on these questions; on what platform am I really building my life? Is it on the things that external factors, like the media, our peers, our parents or even the society as a whole have conditioned us to believe really matters or those we know deep within us are what matters? If you drop dead today, of 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, of what value would your existence be? What would be the worth of your life? Would it be equal to the things you want, have or desire? Would it be equal to those things that would outlive you? Success, fame, power, money, material possessions, are these 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 weigh your life, it’s necessary we all 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 out rightly dis-annulled, it’s paramount I talk on them for proper comprehension so that individually, we can draw up a better understanding of each.
Life as Fun: Life in this context is viewed as pleasure; people with this mind-set centralize the whole of their living on getting pleasures from life. Nothing seems to be more important in life to them than having fun; from constant vacations, going to the movies, relaxations, partying, to everything which 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 in search of something new to do that will give them a higher degree of pleasure 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 a lot 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 in life, and they believe that life has a definite end for them which 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 there destiny – what fate has in stock for them. Life is a series of laid out events, events which they can neither question nor change. Although they believe in destiny, they never seek to find out their own destiny. The whole of their existence is based on the believe that, their life and whatever comes out of it, is guided by an infinite intelligence which eventually leads them to a happy ending. All they need 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 an Adventure: unlike their counterparts who view life has a journey, people with this mind-set are more active and ambitious. They are goal getters, always out to do something new, breaking new grounds and accomplishing great tasks. They are focused and persistent about what they have set out to accomplish. Life to them is all about achievements; life is just another exciting territory to explore. They move from one thing to another, trying this and trying that, they are more like those seeking pleasures, always out for a greater task to accomplish. The difference being that, while they seek achievements, the fun lovers seek pleasures, by so doing they don’t discover their true purpose on earth. In a bid to try and taste all there is, they sacrifice their true assignment for temporary fulfillments. At the end of their lives, there aim is to have written and passed a lot of test they alone have set for themselves. Life to them is an endless search.
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, with the aim of making it first to the end. Often times, the means is sacrificed for the end; process is subordinated for result. Learning how its 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 have accomplished. Their main focus is to get in the race, reach the finish line which ever way; right or wrong. Whether it’s the right race, the right way or track is irrelevant to them. A life viewed from this perspective, is one that 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 which is skipped or short cut later re-surfaces and demands the due process of time. Life is not automatic. Speed isn’t everything. In fact, 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, it 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 mind-set is a marketplace. The only reason why we are here is to trade – to get something from life; to subtract rather than add. The whole of their action is guided by one question “what’s in it for me?” Life is about them, always seeking their own selfish interests. What they can make out of everything, nothing is given freely. If you see them smile, be careful, it’s because they have a favour 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”.