Meditations on Life
I had a long and deep conversation with a dear friend of mine, talking about life and how to handle it in an edifying and cheerful manner. Though I’m no great philosopher, and these simple realizations are nothing new under the sun, they are profitable to meditate on. These concepts are at the heart of living well, yet are so easy to forget as we get caught up in the tangle of life’s moments; both good and bad.
“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” - Marcus Aurelius
Perspective is everything, truly. Pain and suffering have been part of the human equation since the dawn of time. We have the choice of the pain we suffer; we can either suffer the pain of growth and hard effort, or we can suffer the pain of great, unending remorse. Making investment in ourselves now is the only way to ensure peace in the future. We ought to choose temporal discomfort, little or great, for the sake of the greater good. Yet, even when we have all our ducks in a row, they are bound to fall out of line. The mark of true character is how you respond to it. Just as a great performer makes errors and continues to put on a show as if nothing happened, we must have the aptitude to perform this way in life when all goes wrong. Life goes on no matter what, and the sooner we come to terms with this, the better. Will you simply let life pass you by?
As I stated before, there is always suffering in life. However, we can always make meaning of it with a good perspective. Such tribulations can always been opportunities to make us stronger, if we let them. No suffering is absolutely meaningless. Even when it is beyond your control, it can and will try your patience and fortitude. Plus, all suffering can be offered up to God in prayer for causes much bigger than us. I meditate often on Christ’s Passion, as the sorrowful mysteries are my favorite. He is our is example for how we must bear our crosses in this life; with fortitude, humility, and always with great charity. Performing our duty of fulfilling God’s will is the only way to joy and fulfillment. All the suffering in the world could never amount to the joyful triumph of the saints in Heaven.
“This too shall pass”
“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”
“It has magic powers,” answered the king.
“If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.”
Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.
Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet.
“Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.
He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.
“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?”
All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!”
As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.”
At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”
Though moments of this life are fleeting, they always can live on in our minds, hearts, and ultimately eternity. This is a great paradox. We may never relive our memories physically, but we may always relive cherished moments in our hearts, reaping great joy from them. The same can be done for hard times, as many lessons can be learned from reflections. Our actions and thoughts will echo into eternity. What will you have to look back on once you reach your deathbed? Whilst putting your best effort forward, remember to remain detached always, as nothing is certain. Nothing is certain except for God, and eternity. This is the bittersweet reality. Life is truly, truly what we make of it.
Being a student of life
“He who is only an athlete is too crude, too vulgar, too much a savage. He who is is a scholar only is too soft, too effeminate. The ideal citizen is a scholar athlete, the man of thought and the man of action.” - Plato
Though studies are a fundamental part of a living well, it is also crucial to become a student of life. We can grow from every single experience, no matter how minuscule, there’s always a lesson to be learned. We can grow from quite literally every experience, if we reflect, work, and use our time well. Introspect, observe others, and be adaptable always. This is a formula for greatness, even in the simplest of lives. Instead of mocking mistakes, learn from them, and aspire to be like your role models, instead of merely envying them. Always seek out truth and beauty in this world. No matter what, the more answers we find, the more questions we will have if we are truly scholars of life. Only a fool thinks he knows a great amount about particular subjects, or life in general. There is always someone who knows more, a new perspective to be seen (even if it’s to be disagreed with), and truth to be found. Intellectual pride is a great downfall to many, and it stunts growth drastically.
Understanding human nature
We all come from different backgrounds that shape our perspectives, and thus, our actions. While others may live improperly, we have to have understanding and a level of empathy, lest we fall into the same rut, or pride- the father of all sins. If nothing else, humble yourself and pray for others. Compassion toward human nature leads to great peace. When presented with the errors of this world, we can choose how we react. What is truly profitable for your soul and the good of others? Let us find solutions whilst taming our temperament and patience, always working with a level head. Some may be completely unreasonable, but we can achieve much, at least within ourselves, by practicing patience and humility. Let us imitate Christ in His compassion, even whilst exacting justice.
Finally, though this may sound cold or harsh: rely on nobody, at least not fully. We can trust others, but only God can truly be relied on. However, don’t mistake trust in God with trust in your own expectations of Him either. We may not always like where He takes us, but it is indeed for the best.
Trying your best, in spite of errors and afflictions, for the glory of Christ is the noblest thing that man can achieve. Cherish every little moment, even those of suffering. We are so blessed. Don’t forsake that, and I promise you will find joy… if not in this life, then the in next.