Sunday, June 20, 2010

What I Have Lived For

The circumstances of the past year of my life would have been considered unfortunate to most. However, this year has been more rewarding than I could have thought possible. The situation in which I have found myself (though not by choice) has nevertheless allowed me much time for reflection, contemplation, study, reading and writing. I am convinced that I will look back on this year as one in which my life landed on solid ground. I have clarity of thought and a comprehension of events both past and present that has only come about through an intense self-discovery. This process never ends, but I’m convinced that it does begin, and to do so it must have a compass and a frame of reference. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of those closest to me, and for that reason, I am beyond fortunate. Most never have the chance to engage in a serious introspection at this stage in life. The process of TRUE discovery requires a certain amount of life experience. Thanks to our society, there is quite often no time to reflect beyond our formative years.

I have always loved literature and reading, but until recently have somewhat deprived myself of it due to my lifestyle. I’ve often found myself encountering statements that describe the exact condition of my mindset at that point in time. I just finished Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy. While researching Russell, I discovered this quote which couldn’t explain my current outlook any better (although my interpretation of Russell’s use of “love” is a bit broader right now, but still applicable as my own lifelong search). This is the prologue to Russell’s autobiography, and is called What I Have Lived For:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy -- ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness -- that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what -- at last -- I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens.

But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

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