Aristotle said, “Memories are the scribes of the soul.” Okay, fine, this is my paraphrase of my own transliteration of his Greek, but this fact remains: Aristotle is right. The purpose of life is not to arrive safely into old-age, but to live presently. Each of us measures our lives in profound highlights. Time flies because we forget the spaces we lived between big moments.
Jesus shared this same point-of-view. The Christian Scriptures—New Testament—teaches us not to even worry about the clothes on our backs and not to worry about tomorrow. These aren’t abstract ideas; these are excerpts of wisdom. They are guideposts on how to live one’s life, if they have the privilege, to live fully.
I cannot and will not count all the times I have failed to live in the present. The task alone would send me into an early grave. However, if I cannot count all the times I have failed to live in the present, I can choose to count when I do live in the here and now. Journaling, for me, is the key.
I have, for as long as I can remember, always wrestled, unable to accept easy answers, life’s grand, unanswerable questions. I am an armchair philosopher, and a man obsessed with the same question ten-year-old Alex asked his grandmother twenty-two-years ago: how do people die happy?
She was stunned, and no clear answer came from that conversation. But I can remember, having now grown up and cut my teeth in this chaotic space we call Earth, a few things she did not say.
She never said money would make me happy. Though, the lack of it was guaranteed to make you miserable. She never said, the right spouse would make you die happy, or even kids that grew up to accomplish feats unimaginable. No, she never, that day over peppermints and coffee, said anything regarding the right job or the right influence. But she did do something, she grabbed her Bible and began teaching me the Lord’s Prayer—KJV version. She did not preach. She demonstrated. She never forced religion. She left the invitation open.
If it wasn’t for her, and for her doing this, I would not be counted among the ranks of the faithful today.
For a long time, every time my sister and I would stay the night, she would help us recite this prayer before bed. See, she knew she didn’t have the answers, but she knew who did, and instead of empty phrases and cliche responses, she pointed me and my sister toward the only one who could help a person to one-day die happy.
Faith is the secret to joy. Service is the key which unlocks heaven’s front gate.
Selfishness, greed, gluttony, and the rest of the deadly sins aren’t sins in abstract, but actual soul killers. In other words, joy stealers. If you live only for yourself and yours, regrets stalk you like shadows.
There are many paths to true joy, but none of them can be walked alone. We must live and love our neighbor and not worry over the future. We need to plan, sure. That is wise, but we cannot make decisions on how we treat one-another based on how it affects our wallets and lifestyle.
This is why a religious devotion to capitalism or any man-made philosophy will always lead us to alienating ourselves from our tribes—our neighbors.
So, again, how do we die happy? I don’t know that answer, but I believe in my heart-of-hearts that if one dies with Jesus on their mind, service and love in their hearts, one dies with profound hope, and, therefore, everlasting joy.
—I’m thinking of writing a poem or series of poems off of this idea. What do you think?