This week @ecotrain has posed another question, and this time I was not even sure about writing an answer. To be frank, they seem to be getting tougher each time, at least at first sight. After a bit of deliberation, however, there is always an idea that emerges that may be suitable as a response. This week it's no different. The question is about our priorities in life, which can be answered in a million ways. Still, I've managed to narrow it down to the most basic and most important things.
First Priority: Truth
Okay, starting out with an abstract concept, which has been highly debated philosophically, and there isn't even a consensus over whether it actually exists. So I think I should at least explain what I mean by it.
Truth means being truthful to oneself.
Telling lies to others is one thing. It's a bad practice, as it destroys the essential trust between human beings. But much worse than that is lying to myself, in other words, believing my own lies. If that happens, it's not only the interpersonal relationship and cooperation that is compromised, but everything else.
Once you start shifting things around to what you know does not correspond to the truth, pretty much every other ideal, principle, or value finds itself built on quicksand. What remains is the ever shifting and turning kaleidoscope, reflecting broken particles of further deconstructed and abandoned concepts, eventually merging in nihilism. And at that point you may just as well be dead. Therefor it's so vitally important to strive for the truth. And responding to the QOTW is a great practice for this.
Second Priority: Love
Wanting to be happy is a perfectly natural thing, not just for me, but for each one of us, as well as everyone else. This could include our family, neighbors, friends, strangers, animals, plants, whether domestic or wild, even inanimate objects. First and foremost, though, it is about oneself.
Love yourself by loving others.
Recognizing this need for happiness is love. And even though what makes us happy can vary individually in its specifics, in general they are pretty similar: we want to be fed and sheltered, feel safe in our environment, fill our time with worthwhile activities, and share all this with others. Making sure others around us have this chance to be happy is acting on love. Taking care of others creates this love, in both ourselves, ad those we take care of. In this way love creates itself, and simply creating it will create more.
I think it's important to keep the results of each of our actions in mind, short and long term, and in which way we are taking care of whom by doing what. In doing so, we will realize how even the smallest actions can be acts of love. As a particularly loving member of a community I once lived in put it: "Washing dishes is a privilege, especially if no-one else wants to do it."
Third Priority: Freedom
Such an overused term, so full of implied meaning! Where do I start defining it? After all, this is the word that is used to justify most laws, no matter how repressive they may be.
"Do what thou wilt, and that shall be the whole of the law."
To me, these famous words of Aleister Crowley are the closest I can think of to summarize the idea of freedom. Acting upon individual choices, and bearing all the consequences. And this latter part, the other side of the same coin, is just as essential as the liberty to do as you please: Responsibility and accountability! Sure, you can walk out on the frozen lake, but it won't be the ice's fault if it breaks under you.
In the same way, any one of our choices has definite or possible consequences, which we accept (like it or not) at the same time we decide to act upon our choice. Some may not want to be responsible, or they may think that others are incapable of bearing this responsibility, and should therefor not have the freedom. Regardless, due to our nature we are free to choose (though it may be frowned upon, or simply illegal), and thus the responsibility is ours to carry.
Fourth Priority: Beauty
Who wouldn't agree that beauty is important? But on the other hand, who could explain what exactly beauty is? Is it the sun filtering through the summer foliage? Is it the moon reflected in a still pond? Is it the whole-hearted smile of a child? Is it the way a flock of birds flies in unison, making abrupt turns collectively in the sky? Isn't beauty ultimately in the eye of the beholder?
Beauty is when things fit and are working well together.
For example, if the hedge you planted as a windbreak also supplies you with tasty hazelnuts, and at the same time provides nesting opportunities for birds, it's beauty. If your neighbor asks you if he could put his sheep in your pasture for a while, where the abundance of good grasses needs to be grazed anyway, that's beauty. If two friends can look each other in the eye, and understand each other without needing words, that is beauty. Things fit, things match, things seem to be made for each other... which they surely are.
Fifth Priority: Purpose
Finally, to complete the quintet of priorities, I want to mention the destination of my journey, the goal I'm shooting for, the target of my aim.
Even though we may never get there, the important part is to keep progressing closer.
As important as it is to be present in the here and now, it's just as vital to be looking ahead. Where am I headed, and what is going to happen tomorrow? Certainly, we may not always know everything, and life has a habit of throwing us curve-balls. Still, having something to move towards is important.
Though the journey may be more important than the destination itself, without a place to go we may be just going around and circles, and not even notice! Likewise, if the goal is well defined and the target clear, it does not matter if it seems too far to reach. By keeping our eyes on where we're bound, we are likely to have an amazing journey.
It's the purpose of life, the point in our existence. It provides the reason for wanting to be truthful, for loving the world, for cherishing freedom, and for creating beauty. In a way, this priority puts the cap on all others, similarly how truth is the foundation for all.
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