Whenever I hear the opening lyrics of the famous Broadway song “Memory” of “Cats” I can’t help but feel nostalgic with regard to fleeting nature of life:
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
A time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again…
What has passed will never be repeated again. Life and time unfold swiftly. If we just follow the labyrinth and race of daily life and refuse to pause and reflect for a while to know where we are actually leading to in life and why we are doing all the things that we do, we would probably miss the essentials and beauty of life. The Chinese billionaire and founder of the global retail giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, once said: “Life is so short. Don’t be so serious about work. Enjoy the lives.” Although a very busy man himself, Jack Ma knows that life is more important than work, that “being is more important than doing” in life. Another saying states: “Work, but don’t forget to live!” So if we are so preoccupied with work and worldly affairs and neglect to reflect on our life, we would miss to appreciate the beauty and nobility of living!
Ultimately, what will probably linger in our minds in our dying moments are not our achievement, popularity, and recognition but our loving memories of people whom we have touched and loved and significant events that reminded us of the beauty of life. What would probably make us smile as we struggle our last breath are the good old days when we felt happy that we shared our life with others and achieved our earthly goals! Like the words of the song “Memory”, we can probably picture ourselves reminiscing the past all alone in the moonlight and re-live the memory and happiness we have felt with others:
All alone in the moonlight,
I can smile at the old days,
Life was beautiful then…
I remember the time I knew what happiness was,
Let the memory live again…
What brings more happiness to our consciousness during this review of our earthly life is probably not the wealth that we have accumulated nor the fame and status that we have achieved in life as they are part of our past material life, but the spiritual realities of joy and loving memories we have had with our loved ones, with people we sincerely helped, and with our God. We can then smile that we live our life as we like it to be or frown for not living a “good” life as our God wants it to be. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who has achieved the pinnacle of success in the business world allegedly mentioned during his dying moments that what matters most in life is not wealth which can turn a person into a “twisted being” but matters unrelated to wealth and memories precipitated by love:
… In the darkness, I look at the green
lights from the life supporting
machines and hear the humming
mechanical sounds, I can feel the
breath of god of death drawing
Now I know, when we have
accumulated sufficient wealth to last
our lifetime, we should pursue other
matters that are unrelated to wealth…
Should be something that is more
Perhaps relationships, perhaps art,
perhaps a dream from younger days.
Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only
turn a person into a twisted being, just
God gave us the sense to let us feel
the love in everyone’s heart, not the
illusions brought about by wealth.
The wealth I have won in my life I
cannot bring with me. What I can bring
is only the memories precipitated by love.
Whether these words were indeed uttered by Jobs or not, they nevertheless contain wisdom and insight on the limits of our materiality and material happiness. Indeed, memories precipitated by love can make us smile and happy while we review our life script at the end of our lives: A scholar or scientist who spent hours of research and writing to sincerely help humanity advance in knowledge and solve some of life’s problems and saw people smiling because his/her works and findings cured their disease or helped them see the world closer to the truth; the joy of a mother seeing her baby smiling at her; the happiness of seeing the glowing face of a dying homeless person who silently say “thank you” in his/her last breath because we have given him/her comfort and care; the consolation of a religious encountering his/her God in prayer; the inner joy a person who stood his/her ground against a tyrant regime for sake of the truth and justice; or the inspiration of the countless unsung heroes who offered their lives for sake of their country, ideology, religion, and social reform. Indeed, what is essential is invisible to the eye. We can sometimes totally influenced by the materiality of life and get hooked in material accumulation. We sometimes take for granted or sideline the spiritual side of life which can provide us lasting happiness and spiritual joy.
We only live once in this world. As rational beings, we are creators of meaning. What makes our life meaningful would depend on our ultimate goal we set for our lives. This ultimate goal, we envision for our life is what basically guides us in our daily living. Its achievement can ultimately make us happy. The quality of our happiness would depend on our ultimate purpose in life. If our ultimate goal is to seek wealth, then our happiness will eventually consist of gaining more profit in our investments, increasing savings, achieving dominance in the market, creating new breakthroughs in business innovation, etc. If our ultimate purpose is to chase pleasure in food, sex, alcohol, or other forms of addiction, then our happiness will consist of enjoying and prolonging pleasure in our bodily senses. If our basic aim is to love God by serving others, then happiness can consist of spiritual consolation or joy that we have served the God’s poor and underprivileged. If our aim is to change society for the better by fighting oppressive social structures and regimes, then our ultimate happiness can consist of personal joy upon seeing that some of our reform efforts are realized in society. In short, the ultimate purpose, we set for our life can determine the quality of our happiness in daily living….LIFE BECOMES MORE MEANINGFUL IF WE SEE THE CONTINGENT FROM THE ULTIMATE, OUR DAILY AFFAIRS FROM OUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE!
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