AT every stage of life we sustain losses – and grow in the process. We begin our independent lives only when we emerge from the womb and lose its protective shelter. We enter a progression of schools; then we leave our mothers and fathers and our childhood homes. We get married and have children and then have to let them go. We confront the death of our parents and our spouses. We face the gradual or not so gradual waning of our own strength. And ultimately, as the parable of the open and closed hand suggests, we must confront the inevitability of our own demise, losing ourselves as it were, all that we were or dreamed to be.
But why should we be reconciled to life’s contradictory demands? Why fashion things of beauty when beauty is evanescent? Why give our hearts in love when those we love will ultimately be torn from our grasp?
In order to resolve this paradox, we must seek a wider perspective, viewing our lives as through windows that open on eternity. Once we do that, we realize that though our lives are finite, our deeds on earth weave a timeless pattern.
Life is never just a being. It is a becoming, a relentless flowing on. Our parents live on through us, and we will live on through our children. The institutions we build endure, and we will endure through them. The beauty that we fashion cannot be dimmed by death. Our flesh may perish, our hands will wither, but that which they create in beauty and goodness and truth lives on for all time to come.
Don’t spend and waste your lives accumulating objects that will only turn to dust and ashes. Pursue not so much the material as the ideal, for ideals alone invest life with meaning and are of enduring worth.
Add love to a house and you have a home. Add righteousness to a city and you have a community. Add truth to a pile of red bricks and you have a school. Add religion to the humblest of edifices and you have a sanctuary. Add justice to the far-flung round of human endeavour and you have civilization. Put them all together, exalt them above their present imperfections, add to them the vision of human-kind redeemed, forever free of need and strife, and you have a future lit with the radiant colours of hope.