February 27

The value of life lies not
in the length of days, but
in the use we make of them;
one may live long yet
live very little.

Michel de Montaigne


Today's Meditation:

One of the questions that has been on my mind pretty regularly for the last decade or two is this:  What's the difference between "existing" and "living"?  I think that most of the people whom I've known who have high levels of discontent in their lives are those people who haven't made the decisions to do things in their lives that they truly love, that they truly enjoy, and that gives them a strong feeling of accomplishment.

Life isn't all about accomplishment, of course--many of my best days have been days when I've done nothing at all.  Those days, though, have helped me to recoup my energy and enthusiasm so that I could make more of the following days. 

Other days, though, are all about what we get done--and how that helps other people, how that contributes to the greater good, how that gives us a sense of having done something worthwhile.  When we think about it, what more can there be to life than contributing to the rest of the world?  We probably won't see all of the results of all that we do, but in order to live, we must make the most of our lives.  And to do so, we must make decisions constantly to put ourselves in situations in which we can contribute without regarding the return.

Yes, we need to make a living.  Yes, we need to take care of our families and meet their needs.  In order to use our days effectively, we must give these pursuits our all, and do them to the best of our abilities with the realization that in doing so, we're making valuable contributions by helping other people, even if it's very indirectly.  Making the most of our days always is a choice, and if we want to live rather than just exist, we must find ways to give to others--or at least be aware of how we already are doing so, and give our all to it.

Questions to consider:

What, to you, is the difference between "living" and "existing"? 

How does it become so easy for us to start to coast through life without expecting ourselves to make decisions that will cause us to make more of each of the days that we live? 

What does it mean to you to "live long yet live very little"? 

For further thought:

I have never given very deep thought to a philosophy of life, though I have a few ideas that I think are useful to me.  One is that you do whatever comes your way as well as you can, and another is that you think as little as possible about yourself and as much as possible about other people and about things that are interesting.  The third is that you get more joy out of giving joy to others and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.

Eleanor Roosevelt


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