It’s not all that hard to appreciate life. Certainly some have more difficulty with it, and circumstances also play a role. But in general, life is better than death. Not the most controversial statement ever made.
However, there are degrees of appreciation. Certainly ‘being alive’ is something we can all appreciate. But life is more than just ‘being alive’. Being alive is called survival. Life is more than survival or reproduction. Life includes three key elements that can often be misunderstood, underappreciated, and flat out ignored. They are: Time, Tools, and Totality.
Time is just that – the period during which we live. We don’t just exist, we exist over a period of time. Hence the word lifetime.
Tools include our physical bodies and minds, and all that goes with that – our skills and abilities, our autonomic systems (heartbeat, digestion, breathing, etc) and our ability to use, improve and manipulate these things.
Totality is everything we find in our universe, our environment. From mountains to sub-atomic forces, soup to supernovae. It’s the universe, the ‘playing field’ if you will.
When we don’t appreciate these elements
When we fail to appreciate, or we underappreciate, any of these three elements, our quality of life is diminished. When we fail to appreciate the (limited) time we have, we can easily find ourselves wasting time, procrastinating, or failing to spend our time on high quality things or with high quality people.
When we fail to appreciate our bodies, we can neglect them and invite disease and degradation. The same applies to our minds, where we can fall into bad habits, become immersed in storytelling, and fall prey to a slew of fallacies. Failing to nurture and develop the body or mind always brings poor life results and chronic problems.
When we fail to appreciate totality, we fail to keep perspective. We don’t see ourselves at the right dimensions and proportions, and this can wildly distort our philosophy, thinking, and behaviors. Further, failing to take advantage of opportunities (or even see opportunities) in our environment can lead to a life less well lived.
When we build our lives around appreciating these elements
When we gain a real appreciation for time, life can dramatically change. When we focus on just how short our window of life is, we make vastly better decisions. We get into the habit of choosing what’s important over what’s urgent. We choose the people, events, and activities that matter. We spend our days on things that we love doing, and when we are doing things we don’t love doing, we find a way to make it meaningful or enjoyable. We look for lessons and the bright side of every situation, because an hour at the dentist and an hour at the beach are both an hour of your life.
When we find true appreciation for our bodies, we take exquisite care of ourselves. Physical fitness, nutrition, and regular maintenance is no longer a chore, but a joy. There’s no room for ‘I should’ as if it’s someone else’s mandate or peer pressure to keep up your health. If you truly appreciate this one vehicle we get while we’re alive, you cherish it every day with your choices. Just as important is caring for the mind/spirit/soul. Learning, growing, and self-improvement are not topics in a bookstore or philosophy course, they’re how we honor the most powerful tool in the universe – the human mind. We get one! Wow, how lucky! And when you appreciate that gift for what it is, there is nothing you won’t question, learn, or consider on a path for better thinking, more inner peace, less fear and anxiety, and overcoming your mental handicaps and weaknesses. The power to change our entire reality at will is completely within our control. Not steering is a giant mistake, and total unappreciative of this powerful tool.
Being able to appreciate our totality, including everything from the universe and its atoms to the US tax code, is an advanced skill. But the trick is this – to appreciate it all. It’s all just remarkable and hard to grasp. Appreciate that we have very little understanding of what this universe is, but just be thankful it is. The cascade of that means that everything in the world is something you can appreciate and accept. When you do this, labels like good and evil fade. Life just is. The universe is. We decide how to interpret the rest, we write the story. And in this lies tremendous power, the power to really create our own reality by simply choosing to see things without layers of meaning, assumptions, biases, and mis-thinking. We get to deal with reality as it is, and decide at each moment how we choose to see anything that happens, how we behave in response, and how it shapes our life.