Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Question to Ask Ourselves

According to Nietzsche, the test of our lives is to ask ourselves the question do you love your life enough that you would repeat it an infinite number of times? He calls this existential question eternal recurrence. 

When we love our lives then we can say yes, I would live this life over and over again.  When we live with no regrets, then we can say yes, I would live this life over and over again..  Most of us are apt to say, however, I would repeat some, but not all.  I would take the good choices, but not the bad choices, the the happiness but not the sadness, the satisfaction but not the dissatisfaction, the health but not the pain, the well being but not the suffering. 

But life doesn't work like that.  First of all, life is all of this—good choices, bad choices, happiness, sadness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, health, pain, well being, suffering.  To expect only the good choices and positive aspects is to live in delusion as to what life is.  Furthermore, we learn from those poor choices and negative aspects of life; we appreciate the positive aspects when we contrast them with the negative because we have the comparison.  We are who we are today because of everything that has happened to us and every choice we have made in the past.  Many of the choices we make teach us and help us to live better lives. 

It's important to remember, however, the interconnectedness of our life circumstances and choices.  For example, we were born into A, B, and C, and because of this choose D.  D makes us happy. We like that choice.  It takes us to E and F.  G, however, is a choice we wish we didn't make because it takes us to H and I, which are circumstances we don't like.  However, choice J provides us with something we really like, and it only happened because of G, H, and I, and before them A-F.  We see how difficult it becomes to separate one circumstance or choice from the interconnected strand of choices.  Nonetheless, Nietzsche's question is a philosophical one that asks us to look at our life in the past, present, and future with critical, creative, and contemplative thinking.  In the end, this will make our lives more meaningful.  We may decide we would not live this life again.  That's okay.  That means we have looked at our lives and are not satisfied with all of the choices.  Learn from this.  We may decide based on our past choices that we need to make different choices for ourselves.  That's good too. It means we striving toward a fulfilling life. 

Wisdom is the accumulation of choices and experiences and the contemplation of those choices and experiences. 

The choices we  have now and make now are because of the choices we have had and have made in the past.  Likewise, who we will become in the future is determined by the choices we have now and the choices we will make now.   Bottom line: choose wisely always.  Our lives depend upon this.  This emphasize on our lives as determined by our choices should not become the onus of our ontology, the burden of our sense of being.  Rather, this choice should become our freedom, our responsibility, our escape from the prisons of delusion we create for ourselves. 

Keeping this question--do you love your life enough that you would repeat it an infinite number of times?--at the forefront of our actions throughout our lives can help us decide how we live our lives by the choices we make for ourselves.  It is not a question we only ask at the end of our lives. It is a question we ask now.  It is a question we ask ourselves over and over again.  Why?  Because we are who we are because of who we have been.  We will become who we will become because of who we are now.  Past shapes present.  Present shapes future. 

One of the ways we can help ourselves to live without regrets and to say yes to our  lives is to live passionately.  Life is passion.  Passionately throwing ourselves into life makes us appreciate life.  Love is absolutely essential:  love of ideas and ideals, love of possibility, love of the present moment, love of self creation and creativity, love of others, love of ourselves, love of life.  Passions are forms of insight and ways of understanding the world.  Passions are compasses for orienting ourselves through the currents of life.  Passions are the vehicle that take us to the promised land of our happiness, our satisfaction, our peace—our well being. 

Therefore, we should always gravitate toward life enhancing passions like love, perhaps the greatest of all the passions.  The highest virtue is accepting our lives as our lives and loving our lives. When we love our lives then we can say yes to our lives.  When we love our lives, then we create our lives into, as Voltaire called it, “the best of all possible worlds.”  And when we have created the best of all possible worlds, then we can answer yes to Nietzsche's great life-guiding question of eternal recurrence: Do you love your life enough that you would repeat it an infinite number of times?

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