by Francis Tuson
People today seem obsessed with prolonging their lives indefinitely. We are more concerned with longevity than the quality of life. In contrast, living forever is not the secret to ultimate happiness. Obsessing over either the past or the future is unhealthy. It detracts from the present.
People don’t know how to live in “the now” anymore. This can be illustrated by the lifestyles of adrenalin junkies, who replace living in “the now”, with fleeting but extreme brushes with it. Likewise, there is the temptation to replace true happiness with fun or distraction: going out, social media, television, etc. These are poor alternatives, which leave us ultimately unsatisfied, plagued with the desire for something more.
This situation is strange, considering that most spiritualties encourage us to live in the present moment. In Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus says, “So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
In “The Teaching of Buddha” by the Bukkyõ Dendõ Kyõkai organization, it says, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Famous medieval Islamic scholar, Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “Do not carry the worries of this life… because this is for Allah…and do not carry the worries of sustenance because it is from Allah…and do not carry the anxiety for the future because it is in the Hands of Allah…”
This is not to say we should be imprudent and wasteful, but rather that we should not worship longevity or obsess over the past at the cost of happiness and contentment that we could be finding right now.
Fear of aging and death is natural. Anything after death is by definition, unknown. However, many people allow this fear to rule their lives. They spend every waking moment attempting to delay the inevitable, instead of appreciating and participating in the beauty all around them.
Whenever someone I’m close to gets really ill or dies, I think about death and how it can come upon us unpredictably – a close friend in a car crash on matric vacation, or my grandfather at the ripe old age of 84. Attempting to plan for every eventuality is not only futile, but taken to the extreme, debilitating.
One of the greatest gifts of faith is the belief that death is not the end, just another step on our journey. Accepting at once, the intransigence of life, and the belief in existence after death, is a profoundly liberating experience.
This acceptance not only allows, but encourages us, to live more in the moment, become more involved in what we are experiencing, be more grateful for the time we have, and makes us more appreciative of those we love, and more generous in the love we give.