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Unintended Cliffhanger

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yeah, so my column in the newspaper got cut off at the end. It’s most likely my fault, since page 5 was mine to design. But anyway, here’s the story in full (excuse typos…I can’t type to save my life, and my caps lock key is in a weird place):

Living in the present leads down the path to fulfillment

Expectation is humanity’s greatest affliction. We, as humans, read so much into things. We want to think that there’s meaning behind the mundane phenomena of everyday life, that those small actions we perform are working towards some greater good, or some final actualization of our being. We want to think that we have purpose in this life, and that the rewards we will reap from the fulfillment of our destinies are worth every trial and hardship we must endure, every burden we must bear, in order to reach that final peace. 

We push ourselves, push ourselves to succeed, to get ahead, to make our voices heard, to achieve that purpose we so long for. But for what end? At some point we realize–perhaps too late–that, in pushing ourselves into overdrive, we have not, even for a moment, actually lived. We have spent all our time scratching and clawing our way up the ladder, only to find nothing but a patch of empty air at the top. 

Why is satisfaction so elusive?

In striving to be the best, we have brought such great disappointment upon ourselves.

Sadly, the true nature of the issue goes unrecognized. Irrationally, we take the burden of our discontent and rest it on the shoulders of the next generation. Our flawed rationale tells us that, by encouraging our sons and daughters to be the best, to wipe out the competition and reach the top of that ladder, we can compensate for our shortcomings. In doing so, however, we have only doomed them to the same fate we ourselves have suffered: a life tainted by bitter disappointment.

And so our lives, the most precious gifts we will ever receive, are wasted. The years take away from us more than we have gained by living them, a sad truth revealed by the lines on our foreheads, the shadows under our eyes, the heaviness on our hearts, and the undefinable emptiness within.

The weight of this truth is undoubtedly heavy. But how it affects our lives will be determined by how we choose to shoulder it. The reality is that we don’t have time to wallow in defeatism and self-pity; we have to accept our brief existence for what it is, and carry on. Life, though it may not necessarily have any meaning beyond that which we as humans give it, is not something to be thrown away or lived in misery. Now and the future–they’re all we have.

The future, then, should be considered something to look forward to, not a preoccupation. Living in the future brings no satisfaction; living in a dream of grand things to come will only serve to detract from the richness of being.

But living in the present–ah, that is a thing most beautiful!

We must savor these moments as they pass through us, enjoy them before they slip into the past. Then as we lay dying, we can look back upon those moments as ones lived to the fullest, instead of dwelling on the unfulfilled dreams of the futures we never lived. Living in the moment is the one path to true inner peace. That is how life, that priceless gift of existence, made all the more precious by its brevity, should be enjoyed. Don’t fret that you may end up only as a number in a census report, rather than a footnote in a history book. Instead, spend the time that is given to you discovering the true joy of breathing in the fresh, crisp air of a cool winter morning…

The comforting sound of a train weaving its way through the twilight to some faraway destination…

The play of light on the waves in a pool, and your reflection in the glassy surface as you look up from the bottom…

The feel of coins slipping through your fingers like so many glistening fish scales…

The cool touch of rain as it traces silvery webs across your face…

The glow of a tree in autumn, set afire by hundreds of golden, dying leaves…

The musty smell of an old, yellowed book, and the crisp, inky smell of its newer counterpart…

The gentle throbbing ache that creeps into your muscles as you tackle a hill on your bike, the small bit of pain that reminds you that you are indeed alive.

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