When I was a young aspiring architect, I wanted to be the next Frank Lloyd Wright and “change the world!”. But, with a few exceptions, all of us will be forgotten in short order. King Tut, Plato, Alexander The Great, Cleopatra, Julius Cesar, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Attila The Hun, Hitler, Leonardo Da Vinci, Napolean, King Henry VIII, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln – There are just a thimble-full of remembered individuals compared to the number of all people who have ever lived. Most of our American presidents will be forgotten within a few hundred years. The celebrities our culture obsesses over will certainly not be remembered 500 years from now. Would it make a difference if we were able to live on in memory in the world’s history books? Many of the people mentioned above made huge contributions to our evolution. That surely seems worthwhile, doesn’t it? Yet, again, eventually even this planet and sun will die after humankind has. When I read historical stories about some ancient time as I like to do, it hits me that our current civilization is much like that civilization that existed 5,000 years ago. When they were living, they felt they were very advanced. They were on the forefront of technological development just like we are. We are the ancient Rome of some future civilization….if we’re lucky.
So life is fleeting, and the memory of us will be lost in a vast ocean of lives lived and lost. So what? Faced with the huge consequences of this question, many people turn to religion and embrace the idea of some form of life after death. Yet, regardless of whether one believes in reincarnation or heaven and hell, we only live as this person on this material plane this one time. If this is all we have, this short 80 years or so on earth, what do we do with it? In my twenties and thirties, I got caught up in the pursuit of money, the pursuit of perceived success, ambition, material things. Now that I’m in my forties, and know more and more people that are dying due to stress, I don’t understand why I worked 60 hours a week for 20 years of this short life. Why do we get so caught up in the drama? In our personal lives as well, we make mountains out of mole hills. Like teenagers who get so upset about things that seem so silly now, we continue to get upset over relatively petty things our whole lives.
Most people don’t like their jobs, the way they spend 40-50 hours a week for 50 years of their lives. This seems ridicously crazy when you remember the fragility of life, the fact that we’re a dot on the timeline of this tiny blue spec of a planet hurling through space at an insane speed in a vast galaxy, in an ever-expanding universe, just one of perhaps billions of other universes. How would we live our lives differently if we reflected on this every single morning? Would we find a way to make a living that we enjoyed even if it meant we couldn’t afford a house, a fancy car, an iPhone, or the latest Gucci sandals? Why do we have such an addiction to consumerism that only requires us to work more at jobs we don’t like? How do we balance the need for food and shelter, physical comfort, with the enjoyment of life?
Enjoyment does not simply mean the pursuit of empty pleasures. In my opinion, it means experiencing joy and inner peace on a regular basis, feeling comfortable in our skin in any situation, liking ourselves and other people, being without angst, depression, anxiety, anger. What aspects of your career do you truthfully enjoy or not enjoy? Moreover, what aspects of life do you honestly enjoy and not enjoy, if you set aside appearances. What should be eliminated if you disregard hollow cultural pressures? Should we try to eliminate everything in life that we don’t enjoy? There are some things we do that are not enjoyable in the moment that bring us enjoyment, or happiness, or peace of
mind down the road. For example, working through rough patches in a relationship to grow closer together and grow as an individual, going back to school to get a degree to get a job we will enjoy, going grocery shopping to have food in the house, exercising to feel healthy, helping a friend move to nurture a long-lasting and fulfilling friendship. Observing these tough moments in a somewhat detached way can be enjoyable however, if you don’t get stuck within the drama of them, and find peace in the growth opportunity.