The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
To put it succinctly, an “unexamined life” is equivocal with a meaningless life. But, what makes life meaningful? What are those things – tangible or abstract – that make life worth living?
Admittedly, as I have been myself a restless and wandering soul, I have wrestled many times with life’s fundamental queries and vigorously ventured a passionate search for the essence or meaning of life.
Erstwhile, I’ve thought first of seeking or aiming for success and happiness – only to find later a profound reminder from Viktor Frankl, author of the celebrated “Man’s Search For Meaning”, who said: “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”
Verily, in one glorious moment, I’ve come to realize that, other than just striving for grandiose goals in life, what is more meaningful is just to experience life and grow with it every single day. In a nutshell, the more meaningful way is but to Live, Learn, Love, and Laugh.
“Before you die, live.” This is the last line in the poem of American poet, William Arthur Ward, titled “Before You”.
To truly live is not just to exist – as in “eating, working, and sleeping” – but to experience, or embrace the emotions that come with it and without judging it, life’s joys and sorrows, ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, victories and disappointments. As has been oft said, they all happen for a reason or meaning.
Authentic living is living in the present moment, not brooding over the past nor being anxious about the future.
Truthful living is being true to yourself and not simply living up to others’ expectations or making others’ successes as your barometer for success or happiness.
On serious pondering, it can be said that life is a constant work in progress; it’s a never-ending learning process from womb to tomb and beyond.
That’s why, the beautiful truth is that we actually never grow old; we only keep on learning and growing in wisdom, faith, and love. We are always on a “constant becoming” of “who we ourselves really are”.
Love is a fundamental human vocation. We are all called to “love”.
From birth we have proceeded from God’s creative act of love. And we were brought into this world not alone, but into a locus of love called, family.
Then, with our transgressions, God delivered us through his redemptive love. And in the afterlife, we shall forever delight in God’s compensative love.
Amor est difussivum sui. Love diffuses itself.
In other words, it is the natural character of love not to be kept, but to be shared.
As with the truism that “nobody can give what he does not have”, it is quite impossible for one to give love if he or she has not experienced love.
Experiencing the wonderful mystery of love is life’s one magnificent meaning.
Thus, St. Teresa of Calcutta cannot be more apt when she said: “At the end of life, what is most important is not how many great things you have done or how many diplomas you have received, but how much you have loved.”
How could you ever imagine life with a single laugh? Without happiness?
Happiness, as we have mentioned earlier, should not be pursued – it must ensue. Happiness is but a by-product of a meaningful life – of authentic living, of incessant learning, and of selfless loving.
Happiness is a choice. It is not found outside; it comes from within.
Happiness is not what you get, it is what you give. Happiness is not what you have, it is what you are.
Happiness is not a destination, it is a journey. Happiness is not tomorrow, it is NOW.
Truly, hence, to live, to learn, to love, and to laugh make life worth living.
After all, at life’s end, what matters most is not how much you have acquired or achieved, but how HAPPILY you have loved and lived a meaningful life.