Monday, February 27, 2006

Sometimes I think about how in a hundred years time there will be no-one who remembers me -- even my descendants will not know my name, and even if they did, what is a name but two or three words? I do not know even the names of my ancestors from a hundred years ago, the early 1900s, 1800s, 1700s, 1600s -- the memory of them is completely lost.

And yet this does not seem to me a problem that needs fixing. We enter, we grow and move about, we depart. To desire an immortal memory -- that is unnatural and unneeded; those who have made an attempt at best preserve a name and a few tales of their deeds, that is all. An entry in an encyclopedia, but they themselves are no longer on earth.

So the question becomes, how best to "grow and move about". One could make no special effort and still experience the joys and pains of life -- connection, autonomy, play, physical well-being, and their lack. That is a life lived, but what is a life well lived? We can rule out riches and fame -- a life well lived can be chosen by people without these things. Is it character and principles? Is it changing the world, or at least attempting to do so? Is it deep love for one person, or for one's family? Is it the intersection of physical, spiritual, mental, socioemotional? Is it personal growth?

I think of that movie March of the Penguins -- these animals too enter life, grow and move about, then leave this life (often prematurely). What does it mean for such an animal to live life "well"? Continuing the species obviously. That is not an inspiring vision to me (especially as I am not married). And yet the movie is an inspiring one. Why, and when? It is when one animal caresfor another -- cherishing their mate, cherishing their child, or huddling against the group to keep each other warm.

I suppose it is the same with us. A life well lived is one marked by the cherishing of others and mutual kindness.

Work too can be seen as mutual kindness -- in the micro sense of interaction with co-workers, and in the macro sense of what the group is trying to achieve. Mutual kindness, not competition. Unlike striving to stay on top of others, mutual kindness is doable.


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