At life’s end, it’s the essentials that matter most
Inspired & Blessed

At life’s end, it’s the essentials that matter most

Apr 1, 2024, 2:51 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


We’ve just been freshly through with the observance of the Holy Week and, verily for some well-meaning among us, we’ve experienced once again the profound reckoning that, in the ultimate scheme of things, it’s the essentials that matter most in life – and more so at life’s end.

More than money or wealth, fame, glory, power, “possessions and positions”, and other mundane exploits, what count most are the non-evanescent essentials – the ultimate values of goodness, truth, love and meaningful relationships, life purpose, and above all, God.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic book, “The Little Prince,” a pilot whose aircraft is forced down in the Sahara Desert meets a little prince from another planet who seeks the secret of what is important in life. In one instance, the prince meets a fox which promises the gift of that secret. When it was time to say goodbye, the fox revealed his secret: “It’s quite simple: one sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

In life, the essentials – which can be grasped or felt not by the eyes but by the heart – are those that make life meaningful or significant.

When we were small children, what filled our fancy were all kiddie stuff: nourishment, the attention of those around us, and fun. From school age to college, we dreamed of being more successful than our peers – in terms of work, fame, or wealth. Then when we were already tilting at the windmills of a career, we learned the tricks of “I-use-you” and “You-use-me” to climb up the corporate ladder. And finally, when we had a family, we aimed for security, stability and lasting success.

The psychologist par excellence Abraham Maslow cited five basic needs for a fulfilling life: 1) physiological (food, clothing, shelter, and sex); 2) security; 3) social; 4) self-esteem; and 5) self-actualization.

However, scholars recently unearthed a 6th need – “self-transcendence.” Though Maslow didn’t mention this in public before his death, he in fact described self-transcendence as the attainment of intrinsic values like truth, goodness, perfection, excellence, fairness, etc. One’s full potential is not realized through self-actualization alone; one must go above this and also attain intrinsic values through self-transcendence.

Clearly, therefore, it’s the “essentials” that make our life matter. The ultimate values of goodness or fairness, love, meaningful relationships, truth, and life purpose are the essentials of life – because they make life worth living. These essentials are considered transcendental because they go beyond or surpass Maslow’s physiological, security, social and self-esteem needs.

These essentials are not just physical but metaphysical realities, if not spiritual in nature. And, as the fox revealed to the little prince, these essentials are not visible to the eyes but are felt by the heart, where true happiness resides.

What about at life’s end? What are the essentials that should matter most?

As it has oft been said, “At the end of life, what really matters most is not what we bought but what we built; not what we got, but what we shared; not our competence but our character; not our success, but our significance; not how much we have acquired or achieved, but how much we have loved.”

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