There are many who will tell you how to live your life but who’s right? The ‘global wellness market’ is said to be valued at over $4.75 trillion and growing at more than 6% a year. It is a big business with therapists and ‘experts’ galore waiting to take people’s money and time to deal with their insecurities, hopes and dreams. Entertainment channels massage our desires and advertisers prey on our egos as we fall victim to the exploitation of others. Often the young want to be older whilst the old want to be younger; the employed want to retire, the retired wish they still had purpose in work; those in the shade want sun, those in the sun want shade. What about you now? Do you long to be beside the sea for a long relaxing holiday that drifts into retirement or are you already living the life you dream of?
‘If I knew yesterday what I know today, where would I be tomorrow?
I won't let my soul slide away, I'd do whatever it takes
'Cause this time's only borrowed
I got one life, one life, one life and I'm gonna live it
I got one life, one life, one life and I'm gonna live it right’ – James Morrison
Behind the lines of this song, you can find some wisdom. Yet if you play the song, catchy as it may be, you won’t find that it leads anywhere significant that truly answers the implied question which is ‘how should life be lived?’ Consider the diverse ways people seek the answer and respond to their perceived light – a young man accepts peer pressures to enter a life of crime; an aspiring actress puts hers morals to one side for a better part; an academic pours more time into her PhD despite a failing marriage; a businessman builds his business at the cost of family life. At the time, each one of these people is doing what seems to be best for them to ‘live it right’. Behind every decision is a motive – if that motive is purely self-centred, then it will ultimately fail. Esther Baker* wrote of her struggles in seeking ‘Nirvana’ within a monastic life but was miserable and realised that it was leading her nowhere despite the incredible physical sacrifices she was making.
- ‘To escape and sit quietly on the beach - that's my idea of paradise’ – Emilia Wickstead
- ‘If my eyes could show my soul, everyone would cry when they saw me smile’ – Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
- ‘Once I realized the emptiness of life apart from knowing God, when I embraced God and the truth of the gospel and the truth of the Bible, it was a no-brainer decision to see that that was a treasure that was infinitely more valuable than some sort of an atheistic Hollywood party life’ – Kirk Cameron
- ‘The honours of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness, and peril of falling?’ – Saint Augustine
‘The Beach’ is a film that features Leonardo DiCaprio seeking for something more, determined to live and not to die but is disappointed in his quest for paradise. It portrays a shallow life of escapism, exposes the emptiness of hollow dreams and the dangers associated with drug culture. Timothy Leary was a 1960s populist who exemplified this in his advocacy for the use of LSD as ‘a spiritual pilgrimage’, ‘the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness with the right to get high’ and that the ‘aim of the game is to feel good’. The Hippie Generation latched on to his teachings to ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ and led young people to live life as if ‘it was like a big party’ with the mantra of ‘freedom to be ourselves’. It was undeniably a social revolution like others such as that emerging with Punk that arise from time to time – what these indicate is a desire for something more from life, the deep yearnings of the human soul for meaning and purpose.
- ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ – John 10:10
- ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”’ – Ecclesiastes 12:1
- ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:23-26
- ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ – Galatians 5:1
Solomon The Wise declared that every pleasure and material thing that the world can give is meaningless and will not bring fulfilment. Saint Augustine knew that ‘Christ is not valued at all, unless he is valued above all’ and that the human heart is restless ‘until it finds its rest’ in God. As Job reminds us, we brought nothing in to the world and we will take nothing out of the world except how we stand before God. If people urge you to exploit life in the manner of ‘carpe diem’ and to feast on its delights, then it would be wise to pause for reflection before charging on. Yes indeed, God’s rich gifts are to be enjoyed but purpose can only be found as we appreciate the Giver, share the gifts and trust Him for our life’s purpose.
- ‘I am not like a pebble on the beach - a grain of sand on the seashore or just one of millions of human beings past, present and future. No, I am a unique human being loved by God as if I were an only child - the only fruit of his creative powers’ – Mother Angelica
- ‘It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged. It is the same with Christ. He gave himself once to take away the sins of many. When he comes the second time, he will not need to give himself again for sin. He will save all those who are waiting for him’ – Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLV)
- ‘The most important lesson that I have learned is to trust God in every circumstance. Lots of times we go through different trials and following God's plan seems like it doesn't make any sense at all. God is always in control and he will never leave us’ – Allyson Felix
This great athlete battled through tough times but lives a fulfilled life – for her it is one life and she’s living it for God. When you do that, it doesn’t matter whether you are on a beach or not, whether the sun is out or not, for your joy and purpose is fixed on enjoying God your Father and in bringing joy to him as his child.
TAGS – Entertainment, depth, philosophy, certainty, reason, existence, goal, aim, target, direction, hope, value, destination
*’I Once Was a Buddhist Nun’ – Esther Baker published by InterVarsity Press