Last week, the wooden doors of the wall-built cupboard in my rented apartment had to be torn apart as they were eaten up from the inside by a host of termites. The idea was to get a termite treatment done. But on examination, the pest control treatment team found out that the wood was badly damaged and should not be let to remain in place. As they were tearing apart the doors (the house being more than 25 years old), I was thinking about the forefathers of fathers of my landlord who would have got the house constructed with lofty dreams before them. What satisfaction would it have given them to see the house in its completed form, the happiness they would have had in proudly showing the house to relatives and friends, and the house-warming celebration they would have had! And yet, now a part of it had to be pulled apart! A thing that seemed to be an accomplishment of sorts a few decades back, was gradually losing the sheen.
This made me think about the various things in life that we consider to be vital, little realising that they are soon to pass away. Not to mean in the least that we need not dwell on the essentials of life – but to make ourselves think deeper rather than reveling in the seeming permanence of life itself.
The fullness of life on earth itself is deceptive. Life on earth is, but, for a few years. Record holders of the present age have set the finishing line to the 100s – 143 years is the maximum that I have heard of. Be it for a century or half a century or even lesser, earthly life sure comes to an end. Yet, how often we dream and plan for our lives as if it is forever on this earth! Wouldn’t it be more purposeful to invest in the lives around us for the little joys of a day that they may experience? “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
The assets, accolades and accomplishments of life don’t make life full. It is wise to accept that we are sojourners and pilgrims on this earth. It is worthwhile to build castles in the hearts of people rather than erect mansions or run the mad race for achievements for the sake of self-glory. Live each day as if it is your last – goes the wise word. Not in the fear of tomorrow. Not with the mind of a pessimist who doesn’t want to see another day. Live each day to the fullest so that if you close your eyes tomorrow you will have nothing to lose, but much to gain in eternity.
The Bard of Aven with his wisdom writes thus, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances.”
In my Career Counselling sessions with adolescents, the one common desire that is expressed by them is, “I want to become rich.” Though I try to explain that amassing wealth is not the only hallmark of success, I believe that experience would help drive home the point better than a Counsellor. But why think of adolescents alone! Don’t adults cringe, crave and aspire for more wealth? How often we see and experience conflicts and killings over worldly assets – be it for property or money! The fight for rights destroys families and relationships and gives rise to endless lawsuits. Knowing the fleeting nature of life itself, wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to sacrifice our assets to maintain the sweetness of relationships, instead? A ravaging flood, the fury of a hurricane, a devastating earthquake, a raging fire – and the lofty mansions of today turn into the ruins of tomorrow!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Before he died, Alexander the Great instructed his soldiers to make two holes in his coffin on either sides so that his hands would be exposed. In doing so, he wanted to show to the world that even the great conqueror left the world empty-handed.
Life, or rather the seeming permanence of life and wealth are two of the major deceptions that cause us to lose focus. It is not wrong to enjoy life, nor is it a sin to be wealthy. But, to live our lives as if life itself is all and to blindly aspire to be wealthy – are surely deceptions that we can be aware of.