A Life Well Lived
Philosophy & Practice
What is a life well lived? This has been an ongoing conversation between me and my friend these last few days.
The question is as simple as it is complex. A paradox in and of itself.
As I dig into this question beyond my own subjective answers, I initially just find more questions:
How do you measure life? Is that even appropriate?
What of privilege? What of modern standards around success and productivity?
Is a life well lived a successful life?
Or is a life well lived the kind where when you breathe your last breath you have no regrets, assuming you are gifted with a final moment of contemplation?
My friend offered this, “A life well lived is a life filled with questions free of the necessity to answer them but rather to experience the different modes of the questions. And to speak in your terms (Pipaluk’s terms within the bounds of that conversation), to surrender to the desire to answer rather than the answer itself.”
My response was this, “What of the actions and the body? Or do you feel your response applies to both the mind/thoughts and the body/action?”
“I feel like it applies to both. The different modes of experience incorporate what you may be curious about and what you want to ask through your body. There are so many parts of our senses we are numb to.
What constitutes a life well-lived for you?
“It includes your response by my own definition. It also includes acting upon all of most that is that which I am terrified of, yet lives within me as desire, whether society deems these desires as acceptable or not. Probably with emphasis on the latter (the unacceptable), for the unknown and unsanctioned fascinates me as it hold within it a truth and wisdom that is no as readily acceptable.
Pleasures must be present, though this is a personal view, rather than necessarily an objective one. And a life well lived must include service of some sort, even if that service is by existing in a way that it ripples out inspiration.
I like to meditate upon my own death for the freedom it gives me.
A life well lived is on that glimpses at the abyss within and turns existential terror into something beautiful.
The how of it all is the journey and a question with no answer, riddles by failures, and that is a good thing.
That is my subjective answer. I don’t think I can answer this question for anyone else except perhaps with the statement that a life well lived is one that asks this very question. Yet even that may be a luxury reserved for those with enough time to squander on something other than survival and with a good dose of existential anxiety to even be driven to the point of needing to ask this question in the first place.”
I’ve certainly got enough existential anxiety to ask this question often. I’ve grown up feeling disconnected from the natural cycles and rhythms of the land and the life that happens on the land. Even now I find myself judging the success of a day by how productive it was, instilling in me a sense of guilt on those days when I allow myself rest and frivolity.
On the worst of days it is only upon reflection that I realize I have held myself by the habit I have built over more than a decade of having integrated meditation and an experience of the mysterious nature of life, reality and existence into my daily rhythm. Without it I would be back in the all too familiar hole of anxious depression and a total lack of connection and purpose.
Now I am sitting at my laptop, writing to you, pondering what I want you to take from all this. Have you felt the way I have?
Allow me to offer you this:
A luxury that is afforded to everyone is opening up your perception to experience beauty. I have found beauty not only in sunsets that taint the sky the color of blood. I have also found it in my own pain, and it landscapes riddled by human abuse of nature. I have found beauty in industrial harbors and on days when I thought that even having to breathe feels like too much. I have found beauty in rocks I have collected and keep on my dining table in my home. I have found beauty in people I despise and in people I love. I have found beauty in the most unacceptable parts hidden within me and I have found beauty on the surface of my body. I have found beauty in the unbearable stress of a relentless schedule and I have found beauty in the tending of potato plants.
Try this at home
No matter where you are right now and what is going on, look around yourself and see if you can find something beautiful. It may be in a vast expanse of in the most minute of details. Allow yourself a few moments to admire that beauty.
A small challenge
Face yourself in the mirror and focus on your eyes. Look deeply into them, seeking beauty. The practice is complete when you have found beauty in your own eyes.
How about this as an answer that what constitutes a life well lived:
A life well lived is one that perceives beauty.
In the witchcraft I know we sometimes open the Gate of Love, Truth & Wisdom and dare ourselves to step through it upon saying these words, “Beware. Beyond here lies Beauty.”
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