We are all willing to live a life with value and meaning instead of living in mediocrity. However, why does someone spend his life struggling but end up with a sigh? What’s exactly the true essence of life?
By Feifei, China
One day, a friend of mine told me a joke: A white cookie asked a black cookie why he was so black. The black cookie replied, “Because I don’t want to live in vain.” (In Chinese, “in vain” and “white” have the same pronunciation but different meanings.) After hearing this bad joke, in addition to feeling ridiculous, I couldn’t help but think: It is true that we are all unwilling to spend our lives in vain and we all want to live a life of value. Some choose to earn a great deal of money; some choose to make a go of a career; others choose to pursue prominent status…. However, will such pursuits bring us a meaningful life? In the past I would say “Yes” without hesitation; but having experienced and seen much, I had a question mark about it.
Why Are We so Busy?
In my mind’s eye, my father was very busy. He had many social engagements, and almost got drunk and came back home very late every day. Owing to the long-term heavy work, irregular life, and excessive drinking, my father got heart disease and high blood pressure. My mother was always worried about his health and advised him to care about his health, but my father replied that what he did was in order to make a great deal of money and give us a better life and that only in that way could we enjoy better material comforts and be admired by others. Finally, he got his wish. He was promoted from a clerk to a factory director, and was highly praised and crowded around by others. And our family became famous for big fortune. Nevertheless, my father wasn’t satisfied. In order to earn more money, he invested in a bigger business. But he lost every cent he invested and was heavily in debt in the end, which made his hair turn grey overnight. In the following days, my father took pains to work and ran around busily from dawn to dust to stand out from the crowd again. Later, my father retired. Nonetheless, he didn’t feel satisfied with what he had already got, thinking only of the day when he would rise again. Regardless of his heart disease, my father rushed about the construction site every day. No matter how we tried to persuade him, he never listened, just told us that he didn’t want to live in vain.
One day, when I was out of town, my mother, in a quivering voice, phoned me that my father was badly ill. When I returned home in a hurry, I heard my mother’s woeful cry and saw my father’s body in the freezing coffin. Holding my father’s urn, I realized that everything about him had already gone: The family he had served for a lifetime no longer belonged to him; those family members and friends weeping for him no longer belonged to him; the fame for which he had paid his life no longer belonged to him; his beloved money which he was even counting before death no longer belonged to him…. Each and every thing is nothing but fleeting clouds. My father could not hold onto anything and let go of this world, with nothing taken away. He, who had never been willing to live a life in vain, ended up living his life in vain, leaving only his story of struggle …
Looking back upon myself, I walked the same way as my father did, regarding “rising above others” as a life goal. When I was a student, I studied hard and busied myself with all kinds of test papers so as to become a top one; in order to be looked up to by others, I pursued to be an ace dancer and got plastic surgery despite the risk. What’s worse, in order to lose weight, I almost died of deficiency of vital energy and blood. After I began to work, for the sake of outstanding achievements, I spent several times the effort of my colleagues to work day and night, which made me mentally exhausted and unable to sleep at night. Young as I was, I was disease-ridden. Being subjected to disease, I realized that I was too stupid. Having been struggling for wealth and fame, a little famous though I was, I suffered from illness, and lived in pain every day, helpless and empty. I was unwilling to live in vain for a lifetime, but actually I had wasted half a lifetime.
Then I thought of many famous and great people, such as the father of Apple Computer Steve Jobs, the superstar of Chinese KungFu Bruce Lee, the music superstar Elvis Presley, the famous authoress Sanmao, and so forth. They gained both fame and wealth, were successful in their careers, and had countless fans and money. However, some died at the threshold of life; others died of sudden illnesses. The applause, flowers, reputation, and money they acquired during their lives, like the fireworks in the sky, were splendid but transitory. Man is rushing in and out of the world in such a way. Decades pass in an eyeblink, who could detain it? I couldn’t help but feel confused: Why is man alive? How exactly should man live so as not to live in vain? And how could we put a perfect end to our lives?
Essence of Life
Afterward, I got the answer from a book, “One exhausts a lifetime’s worth of energy fighting against fate, spends all of one’s time bustling about trying to feed one’s family and shuttling back and forth between wealth and status. The things that people treasure are family, money, and fame; they view these as the most valuable things in life. All people complain about their fates, yet still they push to the back of their minds the questions that it is most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life is. All of their lives, however many years that may be, they just rush about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled, until they become gray and wrinkled; until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop one’s slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart; until they understand that no one is exempt from the law of birth, aging, sickness, and death, that no one can escape what fate has in store. Only when they are forced to confront life’s final juncture do they truly grasp that even if one owns millions in property, even if one is privileged and of high rank, no one can escape death, every person will return to his or her original position: a solitary soul, with nothing to its name. When one has parents, one believes that one’s parents are everything; when one has property, one thinks that money is one’s mainstay, that it is one’s asset in life; when people have status, they cling tightly to it and would risk their lives for its sake. Only when people are about to let go of this world do they realize that the things they spent their lives pursuing are nothing but fleeting clouds, none of which they can hold onto, none of which they can take with them, none of which can exempt them from death, none of which can provide company or consolation to a lonely soul on its way back; and least of all, none of which can give a person salvation, allow them to transcend death. Fame and fortune one gains in the material world give one temporary satisfaction, passing pleasure, a false sense of ease, and make one lose one’s way. And so people, as they thrash about in the vast sea of humanity, craving peace, comfort, and tranquility of heart, are subsumed again and again beneath the waves. When people have yet to figure out the questions that it is most crucial to understand—where they come from, why they are alive, where they are going, and so forth—they are seduced by fame and fortune, misled, controlled by them, irrevocably lost. Time flies; years pass in an eyeblink; before one realizes it, one has bid farewell to the best years of one’s life. … Only when people actually reach this point do they realize that the first thing one must understand, when one sets foot on this earth, is where human beings come from, why people are alive, who dictates human fate, who provides for and has sovereignty over human existence. These are the true assets in life, the essential basis for human survival, not learning how to provide for one’s family or how to achieve fame and wealth, not learning how to stand out from the crowd or how to live a more affluent life, much less learning how to excel and to compete successfully against others. Though the various survival skills that people spend their lives mastering can offer an abundance of material comforts, they never bring one’s heart true peace and consolation, but instead make people constantly lose their direction, have difficulty controlling themselves, miss every opportunity to learn the meaning of life; and they create an undercurrent of trouble about how to properly face death. In this way, people’s lives are ruined” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). The words in the book tell the truth. Undoubtedly, influenced by Satan’s poisons such as “Stand out from others and pursue to stand high among people,” “Alive, be man of men; dead, be soul of souls,” and “Money talks,” I thought that when I had money, I would have mainstay in life; when I had fame and status, I would have the assets in life. As a result, I regarded wealth and fame as the most valuable things and the life goal and spent my life pursuing them so as to live a life of value. Actually, fame and wealth we spend our lives pursuing are not as valuable as we imagine. They can only temporarily satisfy our fleshly desires and vanity, and provide the needs of our daily life. They cannot fill the emptiness of our heart at all, or help us escape from the law of birth, aging, sickness, and death. No matter how high our position, how honorable our reputation, or how much property we have in the world, in the face of disease and death, these things, like waste paper, are unable to be exchanged for health or life, and make no sense at all. I recalled the lifetime of my father, who had rushed about seeking fame and fortune. In his view, money and power mean everything, which would make one’s life wax radiant. However, wealth and status didn’t lengthen his life for a minute or a second, and he took nothing with him at last. Thinking back, I had been pursuing to stand out from the crowd for decades, and I applied all of my energy and even my life, only to gain others’ praise and acclaim. Later, I enjoyed the feeling of being on top of the world and earned other’s admiration. Nevertheless, after the desires had been fulfilled, I felt not only the emptiness of the heart, but also the affliction of illness. At that moment, I realized that the fame and wealth I had been pursuing were meaningless, and it was the wrong direction toward which Satan induced me to pursue. Seeking toward this goal, eventually I would only end up with nothing but a miserable life and there would be no happiness at all.
I also read these words in the spiritual book, “Only if one knows God and has the truth does he live in the light; and only when his view of the world and his view of life change does he change fundamentally. When he has a life goal and comports himself according to the truth; when he absolutely submits to God and lives by ; when he feels assured and brightened deep in his soul; when his heart is free of darkness; and when he lives completely freely and unrestrained in God’s presence—only then does he live a true human life and become a person possessing truth. Besides, all the truths you have are from God’s word and from God Himself. The Ruler of the entire universe and all things—God Most High—approves of you, as a real man living the true human life. What could be more meaningful than God’s approval? Such is a person who has the truth. … Only God is the truth. God controls the heavens and earth and everything in them and has dominion over all. Not to , not to submit to God is to be unable to obtain truth. If you live according to God’s word, you will feel a clarity, stability, and incomparable sweetness in the depths of your heart; you will have truly obtained life” (“How to Know Man’s Nature”). From these words I clearly understood that if we do not believe in God and worship God, and instead only seek fame and wealth, live by Satan’s toxins and wrong life rules, we would never obtain true human life. For Satan’s substance is evil and it has no truth. What Satan has instilled into us are wrong pursuits, which lead to destruction. Only God is the truth, the way, and the life; only God’s words can show us the right direction. Only if we experience the work of God and understand every aspect of the truth from God’s words, knowing what God likes and what God detests, casting off our corrupt disposition, and living in accordance with God’s words and the truth instead of Satan’s poisons, only if we pursue toward the path that God shows us and eventually achieve knowledge of God and attain the truth, can we receive the real human life and live a life of value and significance. For example, Job pursued understanding of God in life, fearing God and shunning evil; his life goal was living for satisfying the Creator instead of going in for material comforts and wealth and glory. When Job lost priceless family possessions, lost his livestock all over the mountains, and his body was covered in boils, he was never worried about personal gains and losses owing to losing fame and fortune; he still held fast to the way of fearing God and shunning evil and extolled the Holy name of Jehovah. Because of his obedience to and fear of God, he gained the approval of the Creator, being judged righteous by Jehovah, and living a most meaningful life. Having understood this, I had a correct goal of pursuit. I decided to pursue the way that God’s words showed me and obey God’s sovereignty and arrangement, no longer pursuing to live a superior life. Then, I no longer lived in vain, but began a new life course. In order to spread the kingdom gospel, I walked through the jungles, walked on the country roads, and cycled on the street. I felt relief and joy in my heart. I was no longer sorrowful for living in vain; instead, I felt that I was greatly honored to be able to follow God, pursue to know God, and perform my duty as a created being and that it was so meaningful. Now, under the watering of God’s words and under the guidance of God, I feel very assured every day. I deeply appreciate that only this kind of life is the happiest in the world!
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