Yet another of my friends has died – the list is growing longer. The ever-present possibility and eventuality of death has given me cause to examine further the significance of life itself.
It seems to me that as individuals in the contemporary western world we have come to place a high premium on what we glibly refer to as “having fun” and being “happy.” A corollary to this model for living is evaluating the lives around us through this rather myopic lens. With this mindset, we necessarily do others a disservice and it consequentially blinds us from the true meaning of life.
For example, my mother lived with the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) for over forty years. Her life was punctuated by pain and suffering. From the standpoint of others, she was pitied and judged as being worthy of sympathy and special consideration. Should one conclude that she was not as meaningfully “alive” as others. Quite to the contrary, she was very much alive – vital and sensitive, loving and very much present. She displayed remarkable courage and an acute sensitivity to the suffering of others.
As a result of this kind of understanding, I have come to conclude that I have no business evaluating or judging anyone else’s life based upon my own subjective evaluation and upon an internal set of criteria – it is a futile exercise, especially if it involves comparing that life with my own, for it fills an underlying need to feel better- or worse - about myself.
From this perspective, life in all its manifestations needs to be embraced – sorrow as well as joy, sadness as well as happiness, pain as well as pleasure, fear as well as acceptance – all of it if a life is to be experienced in all its fullness as transient at it is.
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