The meaningful life – Part 1
These days, starting before the age of 10, some of our children are dreaming of what they want to become in life. By age 14, the school programmes are already partitioning the pupils into science and non-science groups. The science oriented decides to go for the sciences and professional courses in aspects of Engineering, Medicine, Information Technology, Planetary Sciences etc. in the Universities. While the non-science prefer to study Law, Human Resources, Administration in Higher Institutions, etc. Courses in social sciences are attractive to the ones not strong enough in core science courses but good in mathematics. They pursue Economics, Accounting, Sociology, Political Science, etc.
From this point, the students choose to go as far as they wish, acquiring academic degrees and making a career/choice.
This is a transaction between the two parties. The students are admitted, they pay appropriate tuitions, receive instructions in exchange, while teachers and lecturers set examinations the students must pass before they are awarded the degrees. Everyone plays his or her part for a win-win situation to achieve a state of equilibrium. It is clear that what the students want from the educational institutions are the training leading to certification, generally classified degrees.
The second part is the use of the qualifications acquired from colleges to secure jobs. Just like in the earlier phase. Job is offered and accepted; assignments that are required by the job must be discharged for monthly salary or periodic compensation to be paid. Again, it answers the wants of both parties. Also a win-win situation. Equilibrium is achieved.
By the law of nature, actions and reactions must be equal and opposite. The two phases above represent all forms of human transaction and interactions. Fortunately, these outfits of school and jobs are human establishments, balancing the equations. They are just a sub-set of life.
With the awesome, unquantifiable endowment of life, given unto us by the Almighty God, how do we position ourselves to unlock the enormous potentials deposited inside us? The way we sit for examinations for admission into institution and write exams and interview for jobs, the same way we should set a direct question for each and every one of us and provide an answer to the question to glorify God. At any appropriate opportunity, I take advantage to place the question before my audience and requested of them to answer, not necessarily on spur of that moment, but to take it home, think thoroughly about it. The question is simply “what do I want from life?” This question is needed by everyone regardless of age and gender. Usually for a few moments the hall is silent and shortly after, the participants realize the question is not rhetorical. The immediate answers include wealth, materialism and relationships. Respondents hardly state what they want, the reasons they want them and they rarely think about how to achieve them. Most of the time we don’t know what we want.
Wealth, relationship and family dominate the responses of people of the ages 20s to 55 years, while wealth and children dominate the above 55s. In all the groups, happiness transcends and it is constant. Good health, long life, prosperity and heaven for the above 60s. There is a general believe that economics serves as a good measure of happiness.
Clearly, we live a material world! If we search just below the surface of the economic success of our age, there are some very disturbing signs. Even, in this age of countless overly rich people, there are millions of them worldwide who feel that something is missing in their lives. They are not really happy.
However, if we find the courage within our generally timid hearts to turn to God and ask, “God what is your dream for me and my life?” God will whisper in reply, “Be all you can be. Become the-best-version-of-yourself”.
Our essential purpose is to become the best-version-of-ourselves. It is the quest to improve ourselves, to be all we are capable of being, to test our limits and to grow steadily toward the-best-version-of-ourselves that bring meaning to our lives.
When you focus on becoming the-best-version-of-yourself, you are deeply happy. It is the pursuit of our essential purpose alone that satisfies striving to become the-best-version-of-yourself. That alone is enough to sustain you in happiness. When you don’t have that, all the pleasure and the possession you can summon from the world cannot sustain happiness in the depth of your heart.
God wants us to always be the best version of ourselves. The Egyptian Monk Athanasius wrote “The Glory of God is the perfection of the creature” that is, there is no better way to honour life and God than to strive to become the best version of yourself. It is only then you will be finally free to choose happiness. Because it is then you will be able to give the greatest gift, which is the sincere gift of self whenever you are able to summon the strength of character it takes to give of your time, your energy and your resources to make a difference in other people’s lives, you will experience an unquenchable sense of fulfillment and happiness.
To be continued
Prof. Wale Omole, OFR, is Chairman Editorial Board of The Guardian.