Sunday, January 16, 2005

Is life really worth living?

Sometimes, when we think of our own life and the myriad of problems that we face,then inevitably, we begin to ask ourselves the question:"Is life worth living?"

For a majority of us who are still living, we appreciate the fact that the fact that we are alive is itself an incredible fortune. It is an amazing thing to enjoy a form of existence in which we have the opportunity to experience emotion and thought and beauty and love.

Of all the forms of existence possible in the universe, to exist in a form conscious of our circumstances, conscious of time, conscious of existing as a self, independent from other selves, able to make decisions and follow personal goals, is an amazing, astounding gift.

As I often observe at memorial services, even the fact that we will die eventually does not diminish the astounding reality that we have lived. The fact of our existing for a time in a living form raises us unbelievably above the vast majority of existence in the universe that has never known and never will experience this gift of life.

Our life arises from entirely natural means.

I don't mean to imply by calling life a gift that some supernatural giver exists that chose us among others less fortunate. But, while the giver of this gift may be mysterious or unnamable, there can be no other appropriate name for the fact of our living than it is a gift.

All the life we have come to us from a source beyond ourselves for which we, initially, expended no effort and accrued no credit. We were formed and born and even lived several months before any sense of ourselves existed. By the time any of us existed in the sense of an "I" that we could point back to and name as self, we already had bodies and brains, had already enjoyed gifts of nourishment, protection and care, love, and experience.

If we can ever be said to be worthy of this gift it cannot be for anything we did prior to receiving the gift, but only for what we do once we have received it.

The gift of life is different from most sorts of gifts which recognize some past accomplishment. A salesman receives a bonus for a year's worth of exceptional work. A child receives a birthday present, in effect, to mark the accomplishment of living another year. A thank you gift recognizes a prior act of kindness.

The gift of life is received at the beginning. It is not given in recognition of any prior achievement.

There was no "us" able to achieve anything before we received the gift.

Our life is a gift somewhat like a scholarship or a grant. It is a gift that comes before the achievement and creates the circumstances where hoped for future achievement can happen. But this analogy is still inexact because even scholarships and grants are given based on some past achievement, however small, that creates an expectation of future potential.

The gift of life is given based on no past at all. The gift is completely undeserved. It comes without application. It comes unexpectedly, at least to the new life. It comes with no restrictions, no guidelines. There is no expectation of how it will be spent. There is no official accounting to make of it. No reports need be filed.

Technically speaking, such a gift is unfair. It is not fair to receive such an extravagant gift undeservedly, and without being asked to do anything with it in return. We awake one morning and our first conscious thoughts place us among the most fortunate kinds of existence in the universe.

How can we respond to such a fantastic circumstance?

The way to do justice to this extraordinary gift of our life, is to make or do or be something that returns the investment. For some unknown reason we out of all the infinite forms of existence have found ourselves alive. Nothing that we did prior to our life made us worthy of this gift, so the only way to be made worthy is to do something after the receiving of this gift.

To justify the gift of life we must spend our life on some achievement worthy of our life.

We begin our life in debt, the undeserved recipient of the most fabulous wealth possible and must spend our life repaying that debt. We must exchange, our life, as it were, for some accomplishment as incredible as life itself. We have been given a gift. For justice to be satisfied we must give back a gift of equal worth.

What we must discover, then, is the goal or purpose of life, but not "life" in some abstract or general way, "life" in the sense of our life.

"Is life worth living?
Yes, so long as there is wrong to right,
Wail of the weak against the strong,
Or tyranny to fight;
Long as there lingers gloom to chase,
Or streaming tear to dry,
One kindred woe,
one sorrowing face
That smiles as we draw nigh;
Long as a tale of anguish swells the heart,
and lids grow wet,
And at the sound of Christmas bells
We pardon and forget;
So long as Faith with Freedom reigns,
And loyal Hope survives,
And gracious Charity remains
To leaven lowly lives;
While there is one untrodden tract
For Intellect or Will,
And men are free to think and act
Life is worth living still . . . . " ----By Alfred Austin

What is the goal and purpose of your life?

What are you exchanging your life for?

You are spending the years of your life, the most valuable thing that exists in the universe. Every year that goes by you give away another year of precious life, and what are you purchasing in return?

Are you making a good bargain in the exchange or are you throwing your life away?

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