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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

When the thought of dying can lend purpose to living

I find the thought of dying a very motivating thought.

Don't get me wrong but I do feel that the thought of dying seems to give life much more meaning than it would otherwise have.

It is the phenomenon of darkness that accentuates the splendour of light. It is the sameness of black-and-white that throws into focus the beauty of the diversity and vividness of colour.

Similarly the undeniable endgame of dying brings with it a sense of purpose and even urgency to the process of living.

I am not discussing here subjects like “life after death”. That belongs in a realm that I am neither particularly knowledgeable about nor exactly interested in at the moment.

My thoughts about dying are more in the context of what it means to life.

Imagine this. You could live for a thousand years. And let us assume for the moment that you could be fairly healthy for a large part of this lifespan.

So how would you live your life ? Chances are that you would spend a large part of this rather casually. Without too much thought about what you are doing, what you should do, what you could do and so on.

Why ? Because you have so much life to look forward to that there is a tendency for the mind to slip into “sleep mode”.

Now imagine that you have just five years to live. You are still healthy, still capable of doing a lot with your life – but you have just five years.

Chances are that you will not sit on your bum, letting the inevitable passage of time just carry you to your end without your doing something with the time you do have available to you.

So it all comes down to the most elementary of principles. When something is available in plenty, it loses its value. The price of a product decreases if its supply increases.

And THAT is the reason I consider the thought of dying a very motivating thought. Motivating in the sense that it puts living, and its value, in perspective.

So what does this mean for living ?

It actually depends on one’s perspective.

If you don’t really care about what you actually do over your lifetime, then it does not necessarily mean much. Whether that lifetime is 30 or 50 or 70 or 90 years, it is just a number of minutes that you go through while you can. To use a cricket analogy, if you are playing a five-day Test match that looks like it is going to be a draw in the end anyway, you just play out the match till it is officially called off on the last day.

On the other hand, if you do care about what you would like to see as having achieved in your life when you are reaching the end of it, then you become rather conscious about what you do. You begin to measure yourself against the goals you would like to achieve.

So should you care or not ?

In the true spirit of not being judgemental, I will not attempt to moralise on “right” and “wrong”.

If you don’t care, fair enough. It does mean your life is probably a bit “easier” because you are not chasing a dream, you do not have expectations from goals that you still need to achieve. You just live each day as it comes, day after day. Sure, you have daily demands on you - but they are more sustenance-related, not lifetime-dream-related.

But the flip side of this is that, when you look back on your life towards the end of it, you may not find something that you feel particularly satisfied about. You lived your life – but did you actually DO anything with it ?

Am not suggesting anything. Remember, I am non-judgemental. “To each his own” I always say.

Even for those who care about a sense of having achieved something in their lives, it is a very varied landscape out there.

Most people do not have lofty ambitions of “changing the world” or “making a difference”. They are quite happy to scope their ambitions around their own personal well-being and that of their families.

Fair enough.

If your life’s ambition is to educate your children as well as possible in order to give them an opportunity to lead comfortable lives, then THAT is your ambition. If you look back at your life and feel you have achieved this, you have every right to feel contented.

Then there are those who do have ambitious ambitions. Of, perhaps, bringing about change in society.

Like Mahatma Gandhi. It may not have been a conscious ambition when he started out in his career, it may have been triggered by one incident in Pietermaritzburg, but it did result in him setting out on a path to bring about change in society.

So it is something that may just develop one fine day and may become a purpose that you wish to pursue in your life.

Whatever it is, remember, it is YOUR personal ambition for YOUR life. You are not leading somebody else’s life. And it is also something YOU set for yourself – that is, if at all you want to, in the first place.

People may – and probably will - judge you. All your life.

Society loves to judge individuals based on its own yardsticks of success and failure. Often these are based around manifestations of material well-being. The prize is “respect” and “status” in society for the “successful”.

Nothing wrong at all with that – if you are comfortable with this. After all, each one of us lives in this society. It is not always convenient or practical to be a non-conformist. It is much easier to “go with the flow”.

At the same time, if you are not comfortable, it does make sense to think about what YOU really want to do.

Remember, you can fool the entire world but you can never fool your inner self. If your sense of achievement or purpose comes from something that is very close to your heart – whether society respects it or not – and if you belong to the “I want to do something with my life” category - you would be well-advised to avoid regret later in life by just following your heart and giiving it your everything.
Remember, Mahatma Gandhi was not comfortable with society in his time. So he chose to define his own rules of the game. In his case, not just for himself but for millions of others who came under the influence of his thoughts.

Not all of us have these world-changing ambitions. Not all of us are in a position to even do this sort of thing. There are many practical constraints (some imposed by society) that dictate our behaviour on a day-to-day basis. And while it is wonderful to have lofty ambitions, it is probably good to keep them at a realistically achievable level.

But, coming to the point of my whole article, do we even know whether we have ambitions for our lifetime ?

And if so, what they are.

And whether we are making progress towards achieving them.

In the hustle-bustle of day-to-day life, it is very easy to just get caught up with all things mundane. After all, survival on a daily basis also often seems to be a challenge.

But I believe, whatever be the daily challenges we face, it is important – for the long-term - to take a distance from them and introspect for a while. On whether we want to have a purpose in our lives and if so, what it should be.

We owe it to ourselves. I refuse to believe that in our entire lifetime we cannot find the time for this bit of introspection. We will be hugely doing our own selves an injustice if we do not take the trouble to do this.

For, there is nothing more regrettable in a person's life than regret itself.

Ask a person who does not have many days to live. He will be able to explain this to you much better than I am able to do here.

Yes, indeed, I find the thought of dying a very motivating thought.

10 comments:

Jewellery By Shalini said...

Raja, that is one of your best! I think I am going to have to read this a few times, because it just makes so much sense.

squarecut.atul said...

Superb, Raja. I agree with whatever you have said. It is time I should start acting on your article. ;)

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Whatte post! But you know, I've never thought of dying. Even in my worst moments. Only recently did I think about it, but I was confident I'd do nothing about it :D

I love life. And want to live it :) However, 'bright' death may be!

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I take my comment back

AC said...

Wow.

I agree completely. Death is a huge motivator. But it can just as easily be a demotivator. As Keynes said - In the long run, we are all dead :)

I like the thought of death. In my own morbid little way, I welcome it. Not that I have anything to complain about in life, but if I was to die now, I'd be ok with it. I think it's the middle - not living as long as one expects to, but not dying soon enough - that's a bit of a gray area for me.

Savitri said...

Great writing !!!!Raja
Read all your blogs today and was touched.....am surprised that you remember your chidhood days with daddy.Ya, the movie Koshish was a great one!

Svaha said...

Fascinating! I wrote about exactly the same thing on my blog many months ago!

Corinne Rodrigues said...

This is truly wonderful writing. Sorry I haven't visited in a while.
How have you been Raja?
Warm regards
Corinne

Anonymous said...

-------------------------------
In the hustle-bustle of day-to-day life, it is very easy to just get caught up with all things mundane. After all, survival on a daily basis also often seems to be a challenge.

But I believe, whatever be the daily challenges we face, it is important – for the long-term - to take a distance from them and introspect for a while. On whether we want to have a purpose in our lives and if so, what it should be.

We owe it to ourselves. I refuse to believe that in our entire lifetime we cannot find the time for this bit of introspection. We will be hugely doing our own selves an injustice if we do not take the trouble to do this.

For, there is nothing more regrettable in a person's life than regret itself.
-------------------------------

I am numb reading this ... what to say ....

- Kuhoo

Ravi said...

Good writing and a nice post on life's purpose and death.

I like your blog. Keep writing!

Cheers.