Universal Ethics > Thought of the Month > April 2021

Live every minute!

Each person lives until he (or she) dies, but sometimes a person may feel like he is just passing time rather than feeling truly alive. "Live every minute" as an exclamation emphasizes the idea of intentionally living at all times, to fully take advantage of what life has to offer.

This is a phrase you may have heard before. I was reminded of it recently from the Disney movie, Soul, a fanciful animated story of a musician who is on the verge of achieving his life's ambition when he dies in an accident. He embarks on his way to heaven, but not wanting to be there, he manages to come back to earth as a cat and to bring another soul with him. Without revealing the end (no spoiler!), I can tell you that through his journey he rediscovers some simple pleasures of being alive.

It's a good thing to be reminded of, because people can easily get caught up in achieving something where they will "finally get recognition." This may happen to such an extent that they fail to enjoy all the things around them that they could easily have appreciated. They forget that happiness is a journey.

It's a problem that seems to be more common in adults than in little children. Children don't feel obliged to accomplish fame, because through their imagination and play they can be anything they want to be. The world is there to discover, and they wake up each morning ready to experience it. Furthermore, they are especially eager for the little outings and celebrations and holidays that their family plans for them.

Adults, by contrast, seem more often to wake up in the morning with nothing particular in mind that they want to do. Or maybe they take a moment to think of the upcoming day, and foresee only chores ahead of them that they "should have done yesterday!" There can be a temptation in such a case to crawl back into bed in the hope of going back to sleep, which may well be impossible if they aren't actually lacking sleep. It's the opposite of living every minute!

If a person actually did sleep forever, it would be pretty much the same as being dead, except perhaps for the occasional dream. But those are pretty much random memories pulled together in odd ways, rather than purposeful things that a person could do. Frankly, it would be tragic. So, rather than that, I suggest to you this:

The thing to remember about chores is that we do them for a reason. Chores such as making a repair, paying bills, weeding a garden, are all things that yield benefits. But it's easy to get so caught up in the chores that the person doesn't take time to enjoy the benefits--to use and appreciate the things they repaired or bought, to sit and relax by their pretty garden, etc.

People can be fixated on "self-assessing happiness" as if it were a static condition to be achieved, against which real life may seem inadequate. Everything should be perfect: the person should never be uncomfortably cold or hot, never hungry, never tired, or so they think. It's as if the ideal would be to sit forever by a beautiful resort at a perfect temperature where everything is taken care of.

To demonstrate the flaw in that, I'll use the car gauges analogy. Instead of being well fed, comfortably warm, etc., as a human would feel, the car's condition is shown by gauges. Those typically covering oil pressure, battery voltage, coolant temperature, and fuel level. So, if one seeks the "perfect" conditions, all levels should be exactly at the manufacturer recommended level, and fuel at the maximum, right?

There is just one gauge we missed on that, which is the speedometer. Is it a successful car that sits parked always, with the fuel at maximum and the speedometer at zero? The car isn't a thinking being so it doesn't really care, but if the car was a person, it would seem like a very disappointing and useless existence!

Likewise in a real person, "doing something" is going to make your indicators vary from the "perfect" level. You will get tired. You may get hungry. You may at times be a bit too warm or a bit too cold. But that's normal operation. And it's all OK, when you have something you want to do, take time to enjoy it, be mindful of the beauty around you, and spread the joy to others around you.

So, when doing chores or when you've finished some chores, focus on all the many things you want to do, including simple pleasures and things you can plan with others. Embrace life, including both it's effort and its joys!

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