How Should I Live?

It’s easier to figure out how to get another iPhone or a flat-screen TV or a trip to Bermuda or some other life distraction that to think about these questions. Like, How should I live? Like, What is my life really for?

It’s easier to assume that the purpose of life is to get a good job and a good salary and a good box to live in and another good box to ride in and hope that the boxes will keep you safe from everything. Including these questions. We all, I think, want to hide from the questions. I know I do…

Anyway, Dae Soen Sa Nim would say, “Everybody says I want this and I want that but nobody really understands this ‘I.’ ” What is this “I” that wants everything? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Why does it live? Why does it die?

These questions are so important, because we live our lives on the assumption that the way to happiness it fulfill our desires. The economists believe that our desires are limitless, and that the economy is one big machine intended to fill those limitless desires. The problem is that our planetary habitat’s resources are not limitless.

Everybody says I want this and I want that. If our assumptions about happiness and the fulfillment of desire are true, well, then, so be it: the economy is rightfully predicated on the fulfillment of desires and it will burn along until there’s nothing left to burn. But if that is so, why did Jesus say that a camel can fit through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can get into the kingdom of heaven?

If my understanding is correct, his meaning was not that no one should be rich. It was that if we attach ourselves to riches to the point that we exclude more pressing concerns, we may well cause ourselves a lot of difficulties.

What if we don’t really understand the “I” and what its true purpose is? What if we kill the planet filling our desires and then discover that that’s not what we are here for? Isn’t this worth stopping to figure out?

— Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, p. 115


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