I know I may only be in my twenties, and still quite early in them, but I have discovered the secret to life so pay attention. The secret to life is this: There is no secret to life. Gotcha! Except, I’m not kidding. There is no secret to life and if there is, it’s probably all the things you’ve already been told. Sometimes life’s answers are simpler than what we make them out to be.
People want to know the answers to life’s big questions: Why am I here? What is love? How do I make a difference? How does one achieve happiness? How do you know when you’re happy? And did Ms. Jackson ever accept Outkast’s apology? (Okay, I definitely got that last one from the Twitter’s Unanswered Rap Questions # but it has plagued my mind for the last thirteen years. Oh goodness, that song came out thirteen years ago…) Anyway, people tend to ask others these questions, hoping to find the purpose and meaning of life.
I think the first thing worth realizing about trying to find the secret to living from other people is that all lives are unique and different. No two people on this earth have the same experience. This is nothing new but it’s something that always seems to need reiteration. People communicate from their experiences; they offer insight and counsel based on these experiences. But given the nature of space and time, and accidents of birth and environment, all experiences are limited. And it would do us good to remember that while our lives are intrinsically connected to each other, they are distinctly separate.
What I am trying to say is that one person’s secret to their life may not be the secret to your life. Your life’s purpose will collide with many others but it will still be different from theirs. At the same time, I believe that we have universal experiences that constitute self-discovery which can assist us in finding our individual but communal answers to life. And most of these things, we were taught as children. (I think that’s why I’ve always really liked children – they seem to be much more aware of life’s simple answers than adults.)
Laughter, choosing to count your blessings rather than your shortcomings, treating others with kindness, putting your fears in front of you and facing them; trying many things to discover where you passions and talents lie, committing to your vocations; reflecting often, reconciling often, having faith in something; hoping against all odds, having the courage to move on when necessary, continuously seeking the truth, and always, always, choosing love over hate and indifference. What else does one need to do in life? Trying to do one or more of these things every day is surely how we make a difference – to others and to ourselves. Of course, finding the motivation to do these things might be the secret that people want to know. And maybe here is another not-so-secret thing you need to know: motivation is not something anyone can teach you. You can teach people almost anything except for motivation. Desire comes from a person’s innermost convictions which they alone have to determine.
Finally, I must add that our need to know some “secret” to life often comes from a false belief that others have answers that we don’t. And it comes from another false belief: that there is always an answer that is available to us. As a religious and spiritual person, I feel quite content that while I am always seeking to know more, I will never know all. As my dad would often quote of Philio of Alexandria, “The seeking even without finding is felicity itself.” And while some people see this as a weakness, for me it is an acceptance of my mortality. We are all mere mortals; mortals who are capable of great things but mortals nonetheless. And by virtue of being mortals, we are limited. There are no secrets to life; none that aren’t accessible to you as long as your ears, your mind, and your heart are truly open. There is just living, and maybe that desire to live well.