“He who has a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’.”
This quote of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche considers what defines one’s life. It debates what the focus of one’s life should be, what they define their meaning as. It has been subject to a moral, internal debate for ages. Is it more important the actions you take, or your intent behind those actions? (Maybe there’s not a right answer….)
Life could be the single hardest thing to define. By the Big Bang theory (very roughly), one moment there was a grand collision, and then the next, a planet started to live. When looking at microbiology, a cell is the moment where everything connects to make life, but only when all parts are accounted for and in working condition. Life is what makes death so fearful, for in death, the miraculous spark suddenly disappears into thin air.
I bring these examples up to show that through the years, many scientists and philosophers alike have attempted to answer these very questions: what is life and what is the meaning of it? Clearly it is no easy task to accomplish, but I believe everyone has their own, definable meaning of what life is. That is, the meaning of their own existence, as well as the meaning of the existence of us all.
Contemplating these questions myself has made me think in ways I didn’t expect. I found empathy to be a key teacher in what to learn from the world.
An old friend of mine taught me to look at a situation with a clear set of eyes from a new angle. I started to imagine how someone else’s ordeal felt to them, reflecting on my past experiences to recall feelings of loneliness and helplessness.
There are moments in my life when I felt like no one could understand me. While I was young and naïve, it was very real to me that I thought no one could help. Using those feelings, knowing what that feels like, I appreciate someone else’s situation if they are having similar feelings. While I might not know exactly where they are, I have been in a comparable place, therefore I can empathize with them.
How would I have wanted to be treated, what would I have wanted? These are the kinds of questions you should ask when trying to empathize with someone. Maybe there was some truth in the Golden Rule they taught us back in pre-school.
Like in my life, there are moments everyone goes through that they feel as if no one can understand how they feel. I tend to think of the relationship between a parent and child; the unexplainable connection a mother has when first holding her child in her arms, the tears that fall from a father’s eyes when he hears his child’s first cry. There’s a look in their eyes that says it all; it conveys their undeniable compassion. I don’t know this feeling, but I have seen family members and friends go through it.
That’s why, I can only imagine the feeling of parents who lose their child. Watching your child pass away must be unbearable. One day they are right there in your arms, and the next they are gone. The amount of strength it must take, the kind of strength to push on, to know it’s okay to live again. I can only imagine.
Anyone who has had a loved one pass away will be able to empathize with this. Death is as much a mystery as life. With death, there has to be life, so with life, there has to be death.
I was recently asked “How do you explain people who die sooner than they should have?” Well there is a lesson someone else must learn through that death, even if they don’t know it right away. But more importantly, it is an opinion that the death was too soon, for the purpose of their passing was to help teach someone, to help someone else live the life they are supposed to. Their purpose was to change one person’s life for the better. The beauty in having such a profound purpose to one person is awe inspiring.
So this leads into another layer of defining life: purpose, the meaning of life, whether it be a single life, or our collective existence.
A meaning to life, in my eyes, comes from a multitude of perspectives (hence the emphasis on empathy). As a collective, the meaning for human life is to experience, to love, to feel, to be. This means the good and the bad, the feasting and the starving, the luxurious and the simple, the elegant and the miserable.
But what does this mean for me? What’s my meaning? Well, by the given description, it means to me what it does to anyone. Life is about living the experience and learning from it. The what is irrelevant, for the actions you take determine your true nature, and your meaning is found within. Whether you can see the meaning in your actions and understand your influence on the world is left to be judged by your own conscience.
Life is not something that can simply be conveyed, finding words to properly represent my ideas was a challenge as I expected. I intended to leave you with some sort of unique knowledge that not many people could offer you. This comes back to my personal meaning in life, which I have found to be writing. It is both my hobby and my desire, a sort of emotional release for me.
Through my writing, I like to start conversations, discussions that can create new thoughts in someone else. I want to help people, through helping others you get the most satisfaction. But I want to help bring people to look at things in a sort of light they’ve never seen before.
So, to close, a personal life lesson that life itself taught me (rather harshly, I should add). You must be selfish. At the end of the day, when you close your eyes, you are the only one you truly will have. Love your family and friends, appreciate how every person influences your life, but never forget that they are not you.
When you make decision, it is kind to consider your loved ones, but if someone truly loves you, they will back you up on your choice. There’s no need to make it harder to decide. LIVE YOUR LIFE. Don’t take no for an answer, pursue your passions. When someone tries to stop you, remember you are the one who knows what is best for you. When you have a gut feeling, you must follow it. Your intuition holds more truth than most people lead on to believe, and failing to follow it is one of the biggest mistakes.
Love yourself. Be your own best friend. Learn how to spend time by yourself, one day you might be the only one left for yourself. You are the most amazing person in your life; learn how to see yourself in this light and never forget it. I believe in you, and your best reminder is your smile.
Remember to always smile.