How do you define “living”? Someone asked why I always used the phrase “in your living”. This blog is a series of spiritual or philosophical, sometimes theological reflections and they felt discussing occupations was “out of sync”. I would agree except we are defining the term “living” differently; in fact, one might say we are defining it in opposition to each other.
Living to me is a verb and it is what I do with every breath. I fully understand that many people say they “make my living” and refer to what their job is. However, I take issue with that. The phrase originated when people inquired how someone earned enough money to support themselves and, if applicable, their family.
Balance is important in all things, whether you are building a house, transferring acid from one container to another or going through a twenty-four hour period in life. Writer Jarod Kintz has a great way of describing balance by giving two math problems: 0 + 100 = 100; 50 + 50 = 100. He suggests that the latter is a better balance for love. It is also a better example of how we should approach life and the experiences we have in life.
The Persian poet Runi who lived in the thirteenth century has an even better way of illustrating balance. “Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
We live and by doing so experience joy and pain. We also have joy and sadness, laughter and solemn moments, loudness and quiet times. It is the diversity of living that gives meaning to our being alive. Life is about much more than our job title. It is about how we treat people, our selflessness.
I recently read the Book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. In it she explains the connection between selflessness and happiness. “The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”
Selflessness is not hard nor does it mean losing out on something. Too many people are afraid to think of others before themselves. They are fearful that they might miss out on something or by giving to others forfeit something themselves. Audrey Hepburn had a wonderful definition of selflessness, something she lived every day of her life in spite of being one of the world’s most talents and popular actresses of the twentieth century. “It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.”