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Courage to Live

"The Rose of Heliogabalus", Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 - 1912), Anglo-Dutch

Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. - Boris Pasternak

Probably one of the most relatable "jokes" of our times are the jokes about the procrastination and general delay of any kind of major life steps or thresholds. The reasons may appear to be many - fear, lack of purpose or vision or simply waiting for the "perfect conditions" to appear so that they finally may begin to live in the way they always wanted to. We live in an age in which people are eternally "not ready" and despite their "unreadiness", the life does not stop - life merely happens to them and the people met with all of these life events as a secondary character in own lives, feel even "unreadier", as they never really pursued things actively. Such a life though, often comes with many regrets and bitterness as one ends up feeling as if they never made choices but choices were made for them. What is then life? And what does it mean to live and be alive?


Life is a Journey Not a Result at the End of Living

"The Shoots of Autumn Crops", Zinaida Serebriakova (1884 - 1967), Ukrainian

“Don’t be overwise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don’t be afraid - the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.” - "Crime and Punishment", Fyodor Dostoevsky Western thought in the past few decades has been dominated by the idea that things are to be pursued for their results - we go towards things, do things, always with a certain outcome and a certain result in our minds. It appears as if people have a script that describes to the greatest detail how life is to unfold and what things should be completed before we can do something "major" like get married or start a family. However, this endless journey never seems to stop, because as soon as one point is achieved, comes another. Life, simply becomes an endless "preparation" for the next crossroad and in that process, the whole experience of life seems to be loss as it appears that getting life "the right way" is more important than experiencing life with fullness of our beings. The preparation indeed may be good and certainly needed, but very often, it brings us to constantly being in our minds that actually leaving the mind in order to live seems to be impossible. People think about life more than they live it. Being in the mind constantly makes us preoccupied with either memory or imagination, both which often exist outside of the present moment, for memory belongs to past and imagination is usually our projection of how we want the future to be. That tiny moment, or perhaps long moment as we can see it as an "eternal now" that never stops passes in front of us. The result of life "unlived" is regret and despair - our minds start to run a different film, the mind begins to see the potentials, the opportunities missed, the experiences "unlived" and very quickly we think we have missed out on something that we, at least in this human, earthly experience, believe happens only once. Being "too wise" as Dostoevsky advises against in his monumental novel, makes us in every moment consider every potential risk, every potential negative outcome, pain and grief. It will force us to paint even new experiences - some of them which may be something we had never experienced before, with the already seen colors, as we do not allow anything to come towards in novelty. Life is simply not a destination we come to at the end. It is not a sum of results we think of on our deathbed, judging the same way we judged it before the moment of death came - how well have we met our expectations and desires? Life is a journey and death is also, part of that journey.


The Fear of Life

"Arles: View from the Wheatfields", Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Dutch

Many people without truly being aware of it, are afraid to live. Such a fear is perhaps natural especially in the modern age. The modern age with its many connections, with its constant update of content gives an illusion of choices - there are plenty of people to connect with and be in a potential relationship, there are plenty of schools to go to, plenty of places to visit and yet actually, in reality the true options are very few. This illusion of infinite options makes conscious choices more difficult and procrastinating easier. There is always time, there is always something new, there is always something better. Sometimes we need to learn the hard way that this is hardly the truth. The modern disease called the "fear of missing out", proves itself to be the Mercury's trick of our times - fearing to miss out, we actually do miss out on anything real as we engage too often with the instant and superficial. However, behind many of these fears is another primal and basic fear and that is the fear of being hurt. Everything we truly give ourselves to, everything we truly engage with has potential to hurt us and not only lightly - it often can hurt us to the point we have to rebuild life again. The instinct of self-preservation is strong and to please it, we will rather spend time avoiding experiences than actually having experiences, even if it leaves us bitter, nihilistic and unhappy as a result - everything is preferable to pain. Life brings meaning, and we can truly be content only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable yet it is so difficult for us to be so. We as human beings, should not fear our fear, but recognise it and yet at the same time, not allow it to rule us. We should not allow the "devil" that whispers that staying indoors on a sunny June day is better than playing outdoors just because playing outdoors may result in falling, getting bruises, cuts or breaking a leg. We should not be afraid of fear, and we should not be afraid of pain. We will experience pain and suffering no matter what we do - even if we sit sheltered in our basements, our own mind will create scenarios and thoughts that will inflict us with pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are part of life just like pleasure and joy are, but by avoiding life and avoiding vulnerability, we often deprive ourselves of the latter. For what is the worst that can happen in any scenario? Pain, loss or death? Pain and loss are not permanent and death is the last of things we should fear, but the speech of death shall be left for another essay.


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