This I Believe

Eric - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Many of those who don’t know the meaning of life, such as the entire world population, often wonder in what direction to take it. According to Aristotle, happiness is the ultimate end that our actions do or should strive for. That eventually leads to the question, “What sort of life will be a happy life for me?” or “What sort of life do I want to lead?” The problem with these questions is that only the inquirer can answer them. I believe that it is important to be ever-conscious of what sort of life you want to have led by the time you cease to be living. Furthermore, I believe part of that ultimate end of happiness means being conscious of the aforementioned consciousness.

I first started to have thoughts like this as a pre-pubescent 12-year-old. I was at that age when one truly stops blindly accepting the words of a mother, father, priest, or elders in general; when one genuinely begins to form their own rational opinions and views about all aspects of life. I was getting taller (sort of), more muscular, but most importantly, I was growing mentally. This was the start of my rejection of the concept of heaven, or God, or an afterlife.

Later, at the age of 15, I began to eagerly read a book called The Problem of the Soul, with a recommendation from my father. The pages were long, the sentences were long, and it caused my mind to go off on so many tangents that it took me hours to read what should have taken minutes. The important thing, however, is that it caused me to think, making me reevaluate how I thought about myself and my life. Addressing the belief that each person has a soul, the book chiefly argues that you have no more of a soul or mind outside of your physical body then a snail or dog or microscopic amoeba. A crucial point in my thought process was when the book suggests that life ends when we die. There is no heaven, nor hell, nor afterlife. There is only life. I had always wondered about such matters, but to see it on paper startled me, doing so to such an extent that I put the book down, with the pages open, as if in timid rejection of its words. But the more I thought about it, the more I became aware of its truthfulness to my life. At first, this realization was frightening. I would even go so far as to say it was moderately depressing. However, upon further reflection, I began to see that it just made life that much more special. What better way to appreciate life than to live life it as though you’ll never have another chance?

The third revelation I had was in a conversation with my father. In an assignment for school, I was asked to interview my father with a certain question. I asked him, “What advice do you hope I will hold with me throughout my life?” He answered, “Just be true to yourself.” After asking him to elaborate, he told me that I should always be constantly aware of how I want my life to turn out; to always be conscious of what sort of life I will have been happy with by the end.

Together, these three experiences in my life have led me to believe what I do. I’m not saying that in order to believe what I do you can’t believe in a soul, or in an afterlife, or god. All I’m maintaining is that the questioning of these generally accepted beliefs is the sort of thinking that not only develops my belief, but can also help elaborate upon the unknowns within the belief.

In many ways, this belief is extremely personal to the believer, yet it can be applied to everyone. In my own life, I am still searching for my ultimate end, the goal I am working towards constantly. It is an important decision to make! It is something to base my entire life around! It must be amorphous until I am one hundred percent sure about it. It is not overly urgent for me, but I am always conscious of the question.

As you go through life, smelling and tasting the fruits of apparent success and feeling the bruises of supposed failure, you are constantly under the influence of your ultimate goal, your ultimate happiness. What I believe, is that with every action, thought, meal, or mid-afternoon walk, you should be aware of that ultimate goal or happiness. Even more importantly, you need to know that you are aware of it, and you need to know that you lived it to the best of your ability, because only then can you truly be happy.