“I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job but for a life well lived” Rutger Bregman
The word life is common to every human being but interpreted differently by all. To some it could mean joy, happiness, bliss, while to others it could mean sorrow, pain, grief, insecurity etc and still to others it could mean a combination of both. Many believe that their lives are determined by what happens so they sit back and watch doing nothing but wringing their hands in despair. An insignificant few believe that they have some measure of control over either what happened to them or how they interpret and react to what has happened.
I like to show in this write up how to live. This is not an exhaustive write up but to stimulate out thoughts and cause us to begin to think really deep about the quality of our existence. Every day that we wake up is another day put behind us that was either lived with joy or lived with regrets. Each new day on the other hand is either approached with expectation of anticipation of doom. The good news is that we all have a choice in whichever is our story line.
Let me begin by discussing one of life’s limitation what I call Life by interpretation – this is majorly what others say about life. Our minds tend to grasp and hold onto whatever information is thrown at us through the senses which is why we are encouraged to guard our hearts with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Your life is an expression of the things you allow into your heart, what you allow in your heart you will think on and what you think on will eventually become you.
In this era of social media, a 140 character Twitter post can consume inordinate amounts of time yet no deep thinking ensues: no true satisfaction of mind it attained and this is becoming very damaging. It is leading to labelling without clear understanding of concepts. A person reads a statement about “gas lighting” and labels their spouse as a “gas lighter”. I studied Psychology and yet I read scores of material to understand and grasp the concept not to label but to help.
There is also the statements made by significant people in our lives (parents, pastors, spouse etc.), sometimes they may be statements based on observable behavior which become prophesies recurring in the sub-conscious and dictating recurrence of that behavior. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and creates distress as we find ourselves in a cycle we don’t seem to be able to breakaway from.
The advantage of a life by interpretation however is where we are surrounded by significant people who are well adjusted in their life experience not perfect though by who can then guardedly lead us one step at a time, affirming where necessary, correcting, rebuking, instructing in love. On our part we accept without seeing thigs as an attack on our person, validating rationally the information we receive and employing the methods of change to alter for the better the course of our lives.
A second limitation I would discuss now is what I also call Life by Living – this is our experience. We are a product of Nature and Nurture so that our experience goes a long way to determine our outlook and how we conclude about life. Many live a utopia in their mind, a “safe” place created that no outside force can mess with while their reality is very different. This constantly causes conflict in their minds and can lead to bouts of irritability or depression. We are referred to as Human Beings because of our ability to exist but when we allow our current state of existence to determine our interpretations we keep going about in circles and it looks like we are unable to break free.
Our lives begin to take shape from the cradle where we are not even aware and have no power over the events at that time. The mind of the child has been referred to as “Tabular Rasa” on which life writes on. The innocence of a child ends a few seconds after birth when society begins to write on it as the child lives life. Parents, media, teachers etc. do a constant job in writing/programing and many times after a critical analysis at adulthood there is need for re-formatting to improve the quality of functioning. Re-formatting unfortunately takes time, effort and sometimes may require expert help that most don’t get and result in a lifetime of regret, anger, sorrow, blame and helplessness.
The sad part is that such helpless adults then become parents or teachers or other significant people in the society (bloggers, writers, and preachers) thereby passing on their rut to others as learning. They then become what others say to someone out there who learns and lives by what they have said and the cycle continues.
Life also takes shape by our thinking, our self-judgements i.e. decisions about who and what we are, other judgment – who and what others are to us and then judging our environment. When I use the word judgement here it refers to how we arrive at conclusions in our mind. Today the word judgement has become associated with stigmatization. We however on a daily basis judge things, we arrive at what to do after judging all the information available to us. Therefore the quality of our thoughts is linked to what is available to us through our five senses. We conclude that we are a success or failure based on how we think about ourselves, how we think about other people (are they the same as us or different, do they pose a threat or are they friend or foe) and how we think about our environment (friendly or hostile).
Note as I conclude this write up that battles are first won or lost in the realm of our thoughts. This calls for constant introspection, a test of validity for the words spoken, written sung etc. by others and critically analyzing what our experience is against our beliefs, vision of life, expectation, goals and dreams. Taking time out for retreats, spending a few hours of the day just thinking doing nothing but think is a good way for introspection. At such times ask the question “why” probing for reasons, evidence and opposing views. Remember that critical thinking is not in-born, it is learned.
Finally if you don’t like what you are seeing in your life then change the way you think.