Why are we alive? For what and for whom do we live? Bound by money, fame, and status all our life, we often feel tired, miserable, but have no way out. This article may enable us to know what we should pursue when alive.
by Si Yu
A Thought-Provoking Conversation on the Train
One day, I went out to travel. On the train, I saw that outside the window were rows of poplar trees flashing by, and fields of golden wheat not far away, were waving in the wind. Seeing this, I felt pleasant.
When I was enjoying the scenery outside the window, I heard a conversation between two middle-aged men sitting next to me. A man in ordinary dress flaunted himself, saying, “During these decades away from home, I devoted myself to making money, because my only wish was to provide my son with a good life. That’s something glorious for my whole family. Luckily, through years of efforts I have saved some money and bought my son a house. Although it was tough and tiring, I think my efforts were not in vain.”
The other middle-aged man looked like a rich man. He held his head high and showed himself off, saying, “I’ve got two sons. One has entered into university. The other is a post doctor. They both show great promise. Besides, I have been engaged in commerce for decades. I often dealt with government officials, eating and drinking with them. Although it was tiring, as long as I can make money and improve the quality of my life, and at the same time, satisfy my pride, I think all these are worthwhile.”
When the man in ordinary dress heard this, he felt a little awkward. Then he praised the rich man’s sons. After hearing their conversation, I asked them, “We lived half of our lives for others, working so hard to make money for our sons and daughters and our fame. Then what’s the meaning of our own lives?” It seemed that the rich man felt it beneath him to answer my question; so he said, “Money and glory, of course.” The other man looked depressed and sighed helplessly, “When I was young, I dreamed of making big money. After I was married, I worked hard to make money for the sake of my child. I had thought that he would have a good grade in school and thereby bringing honor to me. But he dropped out of school at an early age. I had no choice but to continue to make money.”
Our Life Is Like a Fully Wound Clock
The exchange between them left me pondering: Each of us comes into this world, and grows from an addled child to a young adult, but before we could understand the meaning of our life, we are drawn into the money-obsessed and fame-seeking trend without realizing it. And then we, like a newly-wound clock, keep rushing about and never stop. Everyone strives for family, children, money, fame, and although during this process there will be many setbacks and failures, and the torments of illness, or we will face unavoidable natural calamities and man-made misfortunes, we still don’t give up our pursuit for them. Until one day, when we have wrinkles on our foreheads and our condition worsens, when we have no strength to work, we begin to reflect on our pursuit. Like my aunt, in order to live a superior life, she exerted herself tirelessly to make money. After working for half of her life, she became rich, and her sons and daughters all attended universities, this brought great pride to her. But at last, she was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer, and then passed away a week later. I also exerted myself doing business for decades, wanting to be as rich as those who had cars and houses; then not only could I gain fame, but also I could leave large possessions to my son. Finally, I had earned money, but I became full of illness. Also, people around me bustle about and exhaust all they have for family, money, and fame. Looking back over these years, so many times we have gained money, material enjoyment, and others’ praises, but we didn’t feel happiness; and we might even feel the greater suffering and emptiness after the temporary satisfaction has worn off. I have ever asked myself more than once: What exactly do we live for? And what is the meaning of our life?
Words of Truth Make Me See the Light
Afterward, I saw a passage of words: “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…. 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. … 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. The Creator treats everyone fairly, giving everyone a lifetime’s worth of opportunities to experience and know His sovereignty, yet it is only when death draws near, when the specter of death hangs over one, that one begins to see the light—and then it is too late.”
These words are so practical. We spend our whole life running to and fro for the sake of family, money, and fame. We hold these things tightly in our hands; they have long ago blinded us, blocked our hearts, made us lose our direction, and led us down into a road of no return. Many people bustle about struggling for their sons and daughters, and after their children grow up, they again are engaged in looking after their grandchildren, but in the end, they receive nothing. There are also many people who devote themselves to making money, and although they have money in the end, they have no comfort in spirit. Some people even lose their lives because of overwork. We mankind were created by God, and our life is given by God. However, if we think back carefully, we will find that we have never considered these questions, such as: Why did God create man? Why is man alive? What’s the meaning and value of our life? We have experienced pleasure, anger, sorrow, and happiness, as well as birth, death, illness, and old age of life, but we reach the end of our life with these questions unresolved, leaving endless emptiness….
In fact, every one of us is under God’s orchestration and sovereignty. We should worship God actively, commit our fate to Him, accept His salvation, and experience His sovereignty and His work; and only when we have knowledge of Him will we not feel empty and meaningless in our life. It is like Job. He worshiped God and walked the path of fearing God and shunning evil throughout his life. Although he was wealthy, and had high prestige, he knew all this came from God and he didn’t get pleasure from this. He was not bound by family, fame, and money, and he held fast to the way of fearing God and shunning evil. Even when his body was covered in boils, he still didn’t care how others thought about him, but took a potsherd to scrape himself while sitting among the ashes. Because of Job’s obedience and reverence toward God in the trial, he was approved and doubly blessed by God; and because he submitted to God and feared Him, his life was particularly valuable and meaningful. Walking the path that Job walked in his whole life is the goal we should pursue.