I often peek into those Little Free Libraries that are sprouting up in public places. You never know what you’ll find there. (I have been sneaking my own book into them on a regular basis). Recently I took home a hardcover copy of The Reader’s Digest 20th Anniversary Anthology, printed in 1941. The very first essay, selected from the September 1922 Digest, is by a gentleman named Stuart Chase and it is titled “Are You Alive?”.
It’s just a few pages long. In it, he says “There seems to be an ascending scale of values in life, and somewhere in this scale there is a line—probably a blurred line–below which one more or less “exists” and above which one more or less “lives”.”
He goes on to describe how he did took a sample of his own life. For one week, he kept track of when he felt alive, and when he felt that he was just existing. He came up with some general classifications for the things that accompanied his feeling alive. The list of eleven states in which he felt alive are not surprising: creativity, art, nature, love, good conversation, danger, genuine sorrow, playing (especially outdoors), sound sleep, and laughing. The five main states of “existence” included: routine drudgery, dull conversation, states where the senses are dulled, boring or monotonous scenery or things, and anger. (He admitted that any of these states could fall into the opposite category under variable circumstances).
He also counted up the hours he was in any of these states and totaled them. He found that he was “living” during only about a quarter of his life.
I find this to be great food for thought, and action. Just where is the line between Existing and Living in my own life? Can I influence where that line is—over the course of a week, or a day, or even during any activity that I’m involved in? Can I infuse more Living into my life by being aware and thoughtful about what I choose to do or how I choose to do it?
I certainly believe that the answer is Yes. That is what being spiritually active is all about. There is nothing wrong with Existing. But given the opportunity and the choice, resonating with God (or whatever you title that energy) and the Universe leads to a vibrancy that not only improves my own life but the lives of those around me.
I have been struggling with the after-effects of a year and a half of cancer treatment. I have barely felt like a human being for many weeks. It would be good to focus on Living, rather than existing. I’m going to try this. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it goes……….