Enjoying Life or Sustaining Life?

February 26, 2009 – It seems there is a fundamental difference of philosophy about how to live life.

By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond

It’s interesting the way thoughts unexpectedly pop into one’s head. I was sitting here contemplating a disturbing piece I read this morning, titled The Final Word. As a therapeutic exercise in mental escapism I started daydreaming about, and visualizing my long harbored dream to live cabin in the mountains, with a pastoral view of distant peaks and meadows out the window, fertile fields off to one side, some horses peacefully munching grass off to the other and a lazy dog napping on the porch.

All of a sudden my idyllic fantasy was rudely interrupted by the recollection of something an old friend once told me. He said he had always wanted to live in such a place as well! Now, he’s old, retired and wealthy enough to realize his dream, so I asked him what’s stopping him from pursuing it, because if I were in his position I’d pursue my dream posthaste. At the time I shrugged off his reply as a sensible one. Only now did it strike me as indicative of a fundamental difference between my friend’s philosophy about life and my own.

My friend, who has some medical problems but is by no means sickly, said he cannot leave his urban locale because he requires access to medical care. What occurred to me only today is that what my friend is doing is sustaining his life, not enjoying it. He’s placing maintenance of his life above enjoyment of his life. Granted, one should seek balance in life, between reckless abandon and obsessive responsibility, but as one gets older they can afford to be a little more reckless and a little less responsible. What is the point of spending one’s final years desperately trying to sustain one’s life in lieu of enjoying it to the fullest? Paradoxically, it seems that people who truly enjoy life live the longest anyway! Look at all the painters, sculptors, composers, writers and philosophers who lived hundreds of years ago, many of whom living to ages that would be considered old even by today’s standards. Could it be that their enjoyment of, and passion for life kept them alive, even without the benefit of modern medicine?

I’d do the exact opposite of my friend. Even if reducing my access to medical care shortened my life, which is debatable, it would be more than offset by the satisfaction of fulfilling my dreams and the pleasure of living in such a beautiful place. I have spent most of my life chasing my dreams rather than working hard for some future reward. That’s why I’m poor, yet simultaneously content. I never feel like “I wish I had done such and such” because I have done pretty much everything I ever felt like doing. Ironically, the least happy time of my life has been the last decade or so during which I applied myself more “responsibly,” although I’m quite not sure why. If I were to die tomorrow I wouldn’t have any regrets about all the things I had not done because there are few. I would regret not being able to continue enjoying life, which I truly do despite the superficially pessimistic tone of some of my writing.

Many people, of course, have noted the fallacy of working hard to attain a future reward, only for the hard worker to discover when the future arrives that they are too worn out from all that hard work to enjoy their reward. I think my friend suffers from that syndrome as well, which is all the more reason to pursue one’s dreams while one is young.

As the pressure from the crushing changes enveloping us cracks my mental egg, I find that once preposterous fantasies, long shelled within my subconscious mind, are spilling into my conscious mind as genuine possibilities. Oddly enough, considering the dire future rushing toward us, I feel optimistic, as if the only thing standing in the way of my enjoying life once again is my habit during this past decade of placing sustaining life ahead of enjoying life. I admit that I am in a fortunate position to be able to reverse my priorities and resume enjoying life, of course, while maintaining a degree of balance. I find, however, that today’s circumstances not only permit exploring new ideas and dreams, but demand it, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

The End