I’m a big fan of Upworthy (I even applied during their last round of hiring), and one video amongst their myriad, thought provoking pieces has stayed with me for a while. Stephen Fry of the British Humanist Association narrates a three minute video on what life can mean for any one of us. When I first saw it, it struck me as odd that some people live lives of contentment through simple things like gardening or watching television and talking with their loved ones. That’s it? I thought. That can’t be someone’s entire goal in life…. Can it? But, it can be.
I had a conversation about this a long time ago with a friend of mine. His goal is to “J.E.T. Life.” Just Enjoy This Life. Coming from the Christian background that I grew up with, such a notion is really difficult for me to understand. Like, for real? You don’t want to live your life for something bigger than yourself? Having time and money to spend on stuff that you like is all you care about? Really? Another friend of mine who is openly and decidedly humanist once told me that he loves it when people post whole music albums to YouTube. He finds it useful, and he joked that maybe one day he would do the same. I mean, it might have been only a joke and I will admit that we were having a light conversation. But I was still utterly baffled. That’s all you aspire to? Uploading one video of someone else’s work that may get a few hundred views or a few million views, and may brighten someone’s day once or twice, but which otherwise does nothing to notably change the world for the better? Are you serious?! I just don’t get it.
Despite all my efforts to be humanist, empathic, understanding etc., etc., sometimes I fail. This is one of those times. I find it very difficult to imagine a life lived only for myself. How could someone abandon the notion of service, or of living for a greater good, or constant self-improvement or of the pursuit of creativity through art or scientific innovation? How could you not want to change your family or your community or the world at large in any way? That’s just … weird.
Still, I want to try to see the other side of this discussion. Is it possible that my friends are the type of people that can have a happy life doing things that make them smile, but I am the type of person that has a preference for leaving some kind of legacy behind me? Is it possible that both of these ways of life, though very different, are each valuable and good? I think it is. … I think. Lol. I mean, if what you do with your time on earth isn’t immoral, illegal or unjust, how bad is it really? [shrug] Maybe it’s actually a perfectly nice life. And if I choose to live my life differently, who am I to judge you for how you live yours?
What about you? Do you believe in “giving back,” forging a legacy or living for an individual purpose? Do you believe in thriving in the experiences the world has to offer while you’re here? Let me know in the comment section. Talk to you later.