A Life Well Lived
English writer Jonathan Swift once said “May you live every day of your life.” That may seem like a redundancy but some people simply exist, they never really live. They go through their lives blindly following the person in front of them, never asking questions and never seeking anything greater. There is great value in the past but the future will never be realized if we don’t grow. In order to grow we need to evaluate and to evaluate we need to think.
May Sarton explained the need to fully live, to have an authentic life this way: “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” A recent book on how to clean out one’s closet advocated asking one simple question when pondering whether to keep an item or not: “Does this bring me joy?” Life is a series of trial and error events but unless we have the courage to examine them, we will never know if they bring us joy, if we should continue to do them or move on to other things. Nothing is perfect every minute and even the best garment cannot give us everlasting joy. However, by learning what works for us and what doesn’t we have the chance to improve and expand our living.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein recognized the dichotomy of searching for knowledge while possessing a feeling of connectedness to creation.
The son and grandson of Lutheran ministers, Friedrich Nietzsche maintained “There are no facts, only interpretation.” Greatly influenced by composer Richard Wagner, Nietzsche agreed with philosopher Schopenhauer that there was no one central deity or God and rejected the morals based upon religion that were prevalent in his time. Life, he felt, was for living to the fullest. He rejected the concept of an afterlife and believed the reality we knew was the only reality that existed. Nietzsche rejected the morality of the ancient and classical texts and advocated that which was “life asserting” was “good”. In his book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” he wrote “Man is something to be surpassed.” His tenet of “daring to become what you are” resonated with those in the arts who often had felt the religious institutions stifled their creativity. Nietzsche’s book inspired the tone poem by Richard Strauss, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” which was first performed in 1896 but rocketed into stardom with its being used as the opening for the soundtrack of Kubrick’s film, “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
If we truly live then our lives reflect new ideas which are introduced to us every day.. Whether you are a student of Plato, Locke, Augustine or Schopenhauer, studying our self and our life increases one’s general knowledge and expand the world we both know and can dream will come. Studying philosophy enhances problem solving skills. Everyone encounters challenges and obstacles. We all utilize problem solving in our interaction with these challenges and obstacles. In short, there is nothing we do without some element of thinking being a part of it. Whether it is by thought, design, or natural response, why we do what we do illustrates our personal philosophy. It is also how we make the ordinary something more, something extraordinary.
The philosophy of our own living is evident in our interactions. Communication with others will, at some point, involve the need to inform them of our beliefs or position on a particular subject. It tis through the study of philosophy and living that our ideas are formed, organized, and then presented in a persuasive manner. We are able then to distinguish what we respect and what we discard.
In 1982, Indiana (USA) statesman Lee Hamilton said: “It seems to me that philosophers have acquired skills which are very valuable to a member of Congress. The ability to analyze a problem carefully and consider it from many points of view is one. Another is the ability to communicate ideas clearly in a logically compelling form. A third is the ability to handle the many different kinds of problems which occupy the congressional agenda at any time.” This is true for any government official in any country or kingdom.
Without philosophy, life loses its challenge, its shine, and its reason for being. Human rights advocate Elie Wiesel once said: ““The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Philosophy keeps us from becoming indifferent.
We make an impact on this world every day. Regardless of what your philosophy is, you not only use it, you influence the rest of the world with it. Hopefully, your daily living is one that does not harm to others but encourages their own personal growth and respects all living things. There is not use in valuing destruction. When we utilize positivity, amazing things happen. Life becomes extraordinary.