The truly important things in life are not necessarily the things that we strive for. The paradox of course is that “life” tends to get in the way of living. We keep ourselves busy running around day after day doing those things that we think we have to do, fueled by society’s influence and our own desire to conform. We work to make money. We make money to buy stuff. We buy stuff because we think this is what success and happiness is all about – this is what society tells us. It never feels quite right; it’s not fulfilling, yet we do it anyway. We think there is no real harm in it and that one day, it will all pay off and then we can rest and enjoy life. The problem of course is that while we are doing all of this running around, making money and buying stuff, we forget to enjoy the things that make us feel alive and happy and fulfilled – whatever those things may be to each of us.
I recently read an inspiring book – a true story – about a man who, when faced with his own inevitable death, decided to share his wisdom about what he thought was the true meaning of life and what he felt were the things that most counted in the end. It has often been said that we should live our lives in the moment as if each day was our last. In that state of mind, we can better appreciate all of what life has to offer, enjoy each moment fully, and take advantage of precious time with loved ones.
The most important things in life are not material; they are family, compassion, and love. The basic, the simple, and the pure. The book I refer to is titled Tuesdays with Morrie. I found the book compelling and inspiring because it reminds us of what life is really all about, and we need to be reminded, often, because we seem to forget. But mostly I was touched and awed by the incredible courage, generosity, and compassion of a dying man.
Morrie was a professor and this was his final lesson.
Morrie wisely reminds us that not only must we have compassion for others, but that we must not forget to have compassion for ourselves. That we must decline to live a life of enculturation and be guided by our own values and what is right for us. He speaks of gentle acceptance of each other and ourselves and acceptance of things we can’t change. He encourages us to fully experience our feelings and our emotions, without shame, no matter how difficult. And then, once we have allowed those feelings to wash over us, we need to simply let them go. This he says, is how we can become fully human.
Morrie also speaks to what he feels brings meaning to a life. I tend to think that meaning is likely different for everybody, but many will probably agree with him that connectedness, community and family are good contenders.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Morrie believed to be the most important things in life. I think for some, they might differ slightly. I do think we need to be reminded to live while we are alive; to try to be more present and in the moment, to let go of past regrets, to accept what we can’t change, to love others and ourselves, and to embrace who we truly are.
It reminds me to stop focussing on the trees and take a look at the forest. I recommend the book.