What really matters?
By Sarah Suleman,
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
It’s easy to forget what a marvelous gift life really is. Our lives, despite seeming all-encompassing account for only a single speck in the gist of our planet and the cosmos surrounding us. You can think of it in a perspective of the color of the sky. Air is made mainly from molecules of nitrogen and oxygen with a dose of argon, water vapor, carbon dioxide and traces of many other gases. Together, as the English physicist Lord Rayleigh explained, the molecules of these gases scatter the blue colors of sunlight much more effectively than the green and red colors. Therefore, a clean sky appears blue.
Our lives are the scattered waves of blue light. Even if we were to be pulled out of existence, it would make a tiny difference. The forthcoming creatures would soon get over the lost color of the sky seeing as they still have a sky. If you really think about it, much havoc won’t be caused unless the sky itself disappears. That is exactly the significance of our lives. The distance to the edge of the observable universe equals 46 billion light years. And in light of our example, one individual equals one speck of blue light. You don’t even need to scale that to tell me how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. In the midst of the daily bustle and drama and the yearning for more and more, we lose sight of how lucky we are to get one brief moment to experience the wonders of existence, of consciousness.
The key point I am trying to shed light on here is how easy it is to lose your focus on what really matters. Think about it. Even if you dedicate sweat and blood into increasing the lavishness of your lifestyle, what more are you going to turn into? You will still be just another speck of blue light. It won’t matter if you are larger than the others, it really won’t appear in the process of things. You’ll still be termed collectively, the rich and the poor, as particles that make the sky blue. When you look at it that way, you’ll question if the purpose of your life is honestly the meager desire to be happy. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wise words, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Now when he said this, he didn’t mean that being happy is something to be avoided. No, on the contrary, his words pointed out how happiness is a secondary factor that arises when the primary factors are tended to. You must first be compassionate. You must first be honorable. You must first make a difference. You must first be at peace with what you are given and what you are not, what you have to work for and what is not in your fate. Those should be your purposes. Not to be happy. So long as you work towards the stated purposes or many others in the same light, happiness will be your companion.
The core of contentment is simplicity. Simplicity can mean many things to many people but it revolves around the main idea of being content with less. It means analyzing why you want something and dealing with that desire at the very root. At the root of wanting more is typically not being content with what you have. Once you’ve learned to be content, you don’t need more. So that effectively means you can stop wanting and start enjoying. There is not a shortage of talks I have listened to of how critical it is to keep up with the latest trends; whether of electronics or clothes. The moment the new Apple iPhone is released, dozens swarm to stores to purchase the latest which may not offer any major alterations to your standard of phone usage; sometimes despite the fact that their phones are entirely intact and have been with them for a couple of months only. The question really is, why do you need it?
I do hope you haven’t pegged my talks as one of an overly wise extremist who believes all must live on trees and eat a grain per meal (that would be awful, by the way). My point simply is that you must make peace with yourself. Make peace with yourself on the fact that your reason for all these purchases is rational and isn’t simply impatience to keep in check with trends.
Of course, the principle is not necessarily to stop wanting but is only to stop wanting excessively. Many a times, in man’s pursuit for what he does not have, he loses sight of what he has at that present moment.
Being content is definitely not only a financially based concept. It does not only concern material aspects of life. The nub of most broken relationships is discontentment. Our significant others or even our colleagues never seem to act the right way. They’re always a little too loud, a little too pushy, a little too demanding. But while you hold the responsibility to gently nudge the person to work on themselves, you must remind yourself that you’re probably a mile away from being ideal too. The strategy is to work together or even work on you well enough to bear their shortcomings and love them regardless.
Reality never leaves our sight and we know, with resentment and bitterness that death may be only seconds away. It will not matter, how high and mighty you were, how many companies you owned or how many friends you shunned for being unbearably imperfect. What will matter will only be how much you lived. How many lives you changed and how many hearts you touched. And that can only be achieved through peace of mind, through satisfaction with what you have.
We will all inevitably leave this temporal dream we call our lives.
Make yours count.