A Study of Lives
What motivates you to continue living? If you have not asked yourself this question, then perhaps you have never been depressed. If you have never been depressed, then perhaps you also have never reflected seriously upon your life. If you have also failed to reflect seriously upon your life… perhaps you should. Someday you may need to clearly define your reason for living and motivation for continuing to do so - your life may depend on it.
I find myself fascinated with the variety of lives adopted by people and their vast differences. Many live for one thing only, while others are continually drawn into their lives by many small rewards - and of course there are those who live only because they've never considered doing otherwise. Is there any ethical difference in reasons to live? I believe that having any reason is a good one.
I can think of many different reasons, but mainly they can be broken into three different ones. You can live for a person, for a thing, or for a general love for life. Those who live for a person will likely end up needing to find another reason to live eventually when they lose that person. No one likes to think about it, but people are not forever - we just hope the one we live for lives longer than ourselves. This doesn't take into account the breakdown of a relationship and loss of interest in living for that person, which ends the reason just as effectively.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that people "living for a person" are in love with that person. The exact opposite can be true - a person can live for the hope that they may have revenge on a person, and other colder, harsher reasons than love. A feeling of duty to take care of a person may also replace love or any emotion in this regard. Even competition between two people can keep them both alive, without actual regard for the other's welfare. The list goes on, but often it is the case that people indeed need other people.
Living for a thing is the second category, though commonly thought much less noble than the first. Material wealth is the most common "thing" for which people live and strive their best to gain. Many people with meager beginnings have "made it big" by working with this goal central in their lives. Though once attained, they often lose interest, finding it not so satisfying as they once expected. Many other things can replace material wealth in this pattern, with little effect on the pattern stated herein.
Finally there are those that live because they love life. Life cannot be classified as a person or as a thing - it is the sum of our collective experiences as a race. It is unique and separate yet is shared by every one of us, past or present. The saying "get a life" is not overly accurate - the recipient already has one. What is being questioned is the value of that life and its reason for continuity. Those who love life itself live for the sake of living. This is a difficult explanation to understand - it must be felt, not probed logically.
Living for the sake of loving life itself is the best reason for living. It is stable, robust in nature, and never runs dry for those who employ it. It is a series of enjoyments and disappointments, none of which comprise a tragedy or joy in and of themselves. The focus is on the journey, not the destinations along the route. Those who run this course may employ other reasons for living along the way, but most will fail.
People must learn to enjoy their lives, accepting the good with the bad. You cannot weigh the one against the other - balance is not guaranteed, just variety of experiences. You can seek deeper meaning and try to see the good in everything, but whatever the reasoning, overall acceptance is the necessary goal. You must learn to enjoy every little thing you can where you are now, without looking either forward or back. If you always are waiting for something to happen or wishing something that has happened will repeat itself, you will miss a great deal that is going on right now. Your experiences are only a small part of you, and the way in which you face them a greater one. Never forget that you ultimately control what you will make of your life.
© 2002 Robert H. Harrison