Day by day and year by year, we race through life — running around on earth, while the planet dances in circles around the sun.
But from a few stars away, the earth looks still. Our lives, our joy, our worries, our collective existence — all unidentifiable.
What is the meaning of it all?
It’s a cliché question, but I used to think about it a lot. I would stress about it, thinking that if I could not figure out the meaning of life, how could I ever know if I’m making the right decisions?
One day, my mother said something that really changed how I experience the world.
She said: "Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a gift to be enjoyed."
Simple and profound. I come back to her words often. It helps me put the biggest decisions I face into perspective.
When we look at our life like it’s a problem, we try to find ways to fix it. But what if this life, this existence, isn't a problem that needs solving?
What if it’s a gift? A gift that reveals itself a bit more with each passing day.
All we need to do is stop and look around to realize this life is pretty amazing.
P.S. I've tried to find the original source for my mother’s words of wisdom. Søren Kierkegaard is often attributed with a variation of the quote, but it is not cited in any of his published works. The earliest version I could find is from Dutch philosopher J. J. "Koos" van der Leeuw in his work, "The Conquest of Illusion" (1928). I found the whole paragraph stunning:
"The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is reality to be experienced. Beware of the man who claims to have solved the problem of life, who would explain its complexities and, with deadly logic, build a system in which all the facts of our existence may be pigeon-holed and neatly stored away. He stands condemned by his own claim. The child which sees wonder in all the world around it, to whom the shells with which it plays on the beach are objects breathless excitement and thrilled amazement, is nearer to divine truth than the intellectualist who would strip a world of its mystery and takes pride in showing us its anatomy in ruthless dissection. For a while it may satisfy evolving man to know that the splendors of a sunset are but the breaking of light-rays in a moist atmosphere; he will come to realize that he may have explained the method, but has not touched the mystery at all. Recovering from the sureness of youth, never doubting itself, awakened man returns to the wonder of childhood and once again sees a world, which, as the years pass by, deepens in mystery and beauty, but is never exhausted or explained."
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