There are many ways to view life: a duty, an opportunity, or an imposition. Seeing life as a gift may be the most difficult of them. It requires looking past the immediate horrors and pains, through a process called transcendence, to see the beauty underlying what life provides.
In our cynical and embittered modern state, our impulse is to respond with a grouchy “And what is that?” We know no longer the gift of life itself. Simply, it is this: to make choices, and strive for the better. To find beauty and enhance it where possible. To know the truth, to act on the truth, and to esteem oneself better in the process.
Life is a gift. We appeared with nothing, but through the bounty of endless nature (endless until we kill it off, at least) we have found ways to live in comfort, free from most disease and pain, and create options for ourselves. Books, music, outdoors and family activities all bring meaning to life. However, it is life itself we most enjoy.
The daily rituals of caring for things and people we love, improving what we can influence, and taking joy in the growth of plants and lives of animals join our own pleasures and exceed them. No person wants to be an island; we spend most of our lives reaching out from the isolation. Those connections that we form bring a greater meaning and enjoyment of life as well.
Again, it is a gift. Nowhere does it say that in every possible reality it must be so. We can easily imagine universes without life, or even versions of reality where it does not exist or is far more limited. Instead we have the ability to think, to appreciate and to choose the better over the lesser. This makes life immensely satisfying.
Unfortunately, we are squandering this gift. When we cut down great forests, erect ugly cities, and dedicate our lives to the suffering of others as happens inevitably under democracy, we turn our back on the gift. We slander it. And we reject it, this great gift, in favor of something far lesser which we value because it is like us, and seems like it is under our control.
If my political beliefs have a core, it is a love for the forest. Seeing it replaced is not always bad, if what replaces it is also beautiful. To see it supplanted by miserable humans, neurotic jobs, parasitic politics, ugly strip malls and alienated suburbs, and to know that we are doing nothing with this even a tenth as great as Beethoven or Conrad, that rankles.
It also suggests that by rejecting the gift we have rejected positivity, and have turned ourselves toward a negative and self-destructive path. No healthy people reject the good and embrace the bad. But in our time, bad is good and vice-versa, so we pursue the miserable and make ourselves feel more horrible, but we are addicted to it. Unlike the gift, we control it. It is human. And so we march on to our doom, certain that we are gods when we act at a level below that of the ants.
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