By Muhammed Nafih Wafy
3rd December 2020
What lends meaning and purpose to our life? What makes it worth living? Is there any serious mission that needs to be accomplished through our earthly existence?
We humans do not share a single vision of life nor do we live an identical version of it. We weave our existence around a dizzying array of goals, dreams, aspirations, and ideals, and in pursuit of them, we engage ourselves in a wide assortment of tasks and responsibilities. They all occupy a major portion of our lifetime and become the building blocks of our life.
In modern times, our life often revolves around an established pattern of goals such as getting the right education, building a stable career, getting married and settling, rearing children, maintaining a healthy life, accumulating wealth and possessions, wielding power, enjoying positions and social status etc. Whether we pursue them with a passion or out of dire necessity, those goals gradually become something of a ritual, making us spend a great deal of our energy, skills, and other potentialities to achieve them. They gradually become the purpose of our life and the sole reason why we get up every day in the morning.
They also rescue us from falling into an existential vacuum as they help us create an impression that we have a well-defined, socially acceptable purpose in life. They provide us with readymade answers to questions as to who we are, what we do, why we exist, where we live etc. Since our ambitions and dreams lend a sense of purpose to our life, we do not have any qualms in dedicating a major chunk of our waking hours to fulfill them. When we cross each of those milestones with months of planning, dedication, and hard work, we feel relieved as if a heavy burden has been lifted off us. We feel rest assured that we live our life to its full potential.
But is our life all about fulfilling such short-range goals and aspirations? Despite achieving our grand objectives and fulfilling our lofty ambitions, we often find ourselves cast adrift without a comprehensive vision of life. We are disturbed by a nagging sense of emptiness in the intervals of those bouts of happiness and pleasure, as if there is a missing link connecting and integrating the different goals we set, pursue, and achieve separately.
In addition, there are a lot of people who feel left behind in this crass, soulless bandwagon for the best education, the most rewarding career, the perfect partner, the most opulent house, the best social status etc. Can we brush them aside as losers and worthless lot?
Also, there are those who come through some of these goals with flying colours, but miserably fail in several others. They are happy and satisfied when they win but fall to the fathomless pit of sorrow and depression when they lose something they crave for.
The Common Thread Of Life
It seems we desperately require a common theme and thread encompassing everything we do and integrating our existence with a grand vision and objective, so that we don’t exult over the tiny things we achieve nor we regret over what we lose in the short term. Viewing our existence in the grand scheme of things will help us to generate lasting meaning, sustainable value, and eternal purpose for our life.
A life devoid of such an overarching sense of purpose and holistic meaning is like a rudderless ship. Without a vision to guide, our life’s boat can navigate the shallow waters of life, but risks being capsized once it wanders off to the whirling vortex.
While a long-term purpose provides us with clarity, direction, continuity, and integrity to our lives, purposelessness will create an emptiness within us. When this void deepens, we try to fill it with trivial things such as pleasure, financial rewards, status, fame, power, and possessions, which only ends up further deepening the chasm.
The pleasure we derive from the various short-term gains is momentary. It departs us after a while, leaving us on the lookout for the next supply of motivation. Depending on these short doses of motivation followed by long intervals of despair, this will add to our frustration and disillusionment – and this cycle of disappointment cannot be broken with anything other than a clear, enduring sense of purpose that does not exhaust with our earthly existence.
We require something which can make each and every moment of our life meaningful. We need to convert this life into something more valuable and sustainable. No short-term objective which expires before our life expires can motivate us to live. Why should we live for achieving something that cannot last even our lifetime?
If we have a long-term purpose to drive our life, and if we can align all our short terms goals and strategies with it, no short-term achievement can make us exalted and no short-term debacle can demotivate us, and no amount of rejection can waver us and none of the delusional triumphs of life can hold us a prisoner. If we find all our objectives, including our pursuit of money and pleasure, a means to a grander, nobler, and much superior goal, our life’s smooth flow won’t be disturbed by the small hiccups of our pleasure and sorrow.
Inculcating in us a long-term vision of life are the belief in God and His absolute authority over the cosmic scheme of things, gratitude to His blessings, patience in the face of His trials and tribulations, willingness to dedicate and sacrifice short-term gains for lasting goals, trust in His choices for us, endless hope in His blessings, and unwavering fear of His wrath and punishment. A believer adds to the resilience and solidity of his or her faith when an overarching purpose – the pursuit of God’s approval – becomes the abiding passion of his or her life.
By observing gratitude, we can save ourselves from the lures of happiness, and by exercising patience we can overcome the trials of grief. Both happiness and grief are delusions that can distract us from pursuing the true purpose of life.
In the absence of a solid, long-term purpose which faith imparts to us, we tend to confuse many things with purpose, devoting our time and energy for them, only to realize that the void still exists there. We may continue to apply such fake medicines and placebos which only leaves us further depressed and disillusioned.
However, influenced by a fast-paced culture that glorifies instant gratifications and vilifies all sorts of failures, we make too much of our short-term goals that our passion and energy are severely depleted when we fall short of achieving them. Therefore, we are not able to treat the challenges and hardships of life as the building blocks of our life. We are not able to go through them with the same passion with which we experience the most enjoyable moments of life.
Failures Are Integral To The Rhythm Of Our Life
The impression that with our grand strategies, never-ending ambitions, and relentless determination we are programmed and wired to succeed has made us intolerant to accept the worth and grace in failures. We often forget the fact that many of our so-called failures are not failures at all. They are not even steppingstones to success, as self-help gurus made us believe. They are just instances which we have to simply go through, but they are pregnant with some deeper meanings and eternal values, irrespective of how humiliating they are and how little limelight they can hog for us. Failures and hardships are as integral to the success and rhythm of our life as celebrated feats of our life.
We glorify impressive feats of our super achievers from different walks of life while ignoring and belittling the achievements of those who prefer to work silently and diligently. Even our children are fed with the stories of people who ‘succeeded’ in life and made their mark. But we need to motivate them with the stories of people who failed in life despite all their efforts, but still remained heroes of life as they inculcated an eternal value in the midst of all debacles they faced.
We reserve success to people who hog the limelight by doing remarkable things and of theatrical significance. At a time when everyone wants to generate something of a promotional value, there emerges a crisis of meaning. We do not focus on what makes meaning for us if it fails to grab eyeballs and hog limelight. On the contrary, we do things which can attract people’s attention, even if it does not add any value to our life.
Be Expert Navigators Of Life
The real achievers are those who cherish life as a blessing, treasure it as an invaluable gift, and try their best to make it a fruitful and rewarding experience. They do not allow any of their sufferings and hardships to damage the beauty of their life. They navigate life’s boat smoothly, no matter how stormy the weather is and how rough the water is. They emerge as expert navigators and their life resilient and robust.
The real losers are those who fail to notice meaning and purpose in sufferings and sacrifices. They cannot see any meaning in the depth of life, as they never attempt to scratch the veneer of the troubles facing them to see the worth and beauty concealed underneath. They indulge in an endless blame-game, hiding in the shell of victimhood, complaining about others, finding excuses for their laziness and weakness.
No doubt that life treats people differently. But eventually what makes the difference is how you treat it. Your life is what you make of it, no matter how fixed and static it may look from a distance. Circumstances differ, but what ultimately counts is how we respond to them and how we try to overcome the challenges. Life is not what is offered to us on a platter or spoon-fed to us, but it is what we gather through our achievements as well as sufferings and failures.
Original Headline: Seek Life’s Meaning Beyond the Delusions of Happiness and Grief
Source: The Muslim Vibe
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