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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Recipe for the Art of Living Well



I want to share with you my recipe for the art of living well.

I understand that life must have a purpose, or, more specifically, an external as well as an internal purpose.

External Purpose

I realize that in life setting a purpose is important, but not so important that it drives you crazy in pursuing it or giving it up altogether. As a matter of fact, there is an external purpose that only sets me a direction for the destination of my life. In that direction, there are many different signposts guiding me along the way. Arriving at one signpost simply means that I have accomplished one task; missing that signpost means that I am still on the right path but simply taking maybe a detour or just longer time because of misdirection or getting lost on the way.

Internal Purpose

My internal purpose is more important: it has nothing to do with arriving at my destination, but to do with the quality of my consciousness—what I am doing along the way.

That Jesus said: “gain the world and lose your soul” probably said everything there is to say about the internal purpose of life for an individual.

External purpose can never give lasting fulfillment in life due to its transience and impermanence, but internal purpose, because of its unique quality of being in the present moment, may give us inner joy and a sense of fulfillment. That is how I feel about my internal life purpose.

No matter what you do in your life, just do your very best and do it well, no matter how insignificant they may be.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” Martin Luther King Jr.                                    

I always tell myself to try doing everything as if God had called upon me at that particular moment to do it. Of course, admittedly, it is not always that easy, given that the mind may be troubled by the ego-self, by invasive and unwanted thoughts from the past or by projections of those thoughts into the future. But having the mindset with the right intention is already a first step or breakthrough for me.

I understand that I have three options in whatever I have been called to do: do it; not to do it; and do it while enjoying the present moment of doing. I just do what I have to do, whether I like it or not, just as Michelangelo painted—who, believing that his talent was in sculpture and not in painting, was at first unwilling to do the fresco, which turned out to be one of his greatest masterpieces.

All these years, I have been doing what I may not like to do, but I have learned to like what I have to do. As of today, I am in contentment, and my life goes on, continuing doing what I like to do, or what I have to do.

Sometimes I would ask that question: “What about tomorrow?”

Well, I cannot speak for tomorrow. Tomorrow hasn’t come yet. After all, tomorrow is another day, just as Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind. 

The “Death” Ingredient

However I look at my lifespan, I am now closer to the end rather than the beginning. That is to say, the thought of death has become more and more real with each day passing. I have come to believe that most elderly people have similar experience.

If I could ask but one question about the future, it would be: “How am I going to die?” and not “When am I going to die?”

I wouldn’t want to know about the when. To me, time is not a big factor. My desire to know the “how” is just out of plain curiosity. Anyway, they are just hypothetical questions without any answer.

In life, we all ask many different questions, some of which are practical, some hypothetical, and some without an answer. To many, living is a search for an answer to many of the unanswerable questions in life.

So, stop looking for an answer to every question asked, but continue to ask, and just live if there were no tomorrow.

 Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

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