Born To Live
We were all born to live, not merely exist. We all have the potential to reach the highest heights, but how many of us are content to get by?
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London
Ask yourself this question? Is getting a degree, working for “The Man” until retirement age, and just getting by on social security and a meager 401(k) until the end of our lives living?
Can we say we’ve maximized our potential when all we’ve done is reached the finish line?
The French pride themselves in saying they “live to eat” while the rest of the world “eat to live.” In other words, food should be enjoyed and cherished, not looked at as merely a means of survival. I feel the same about life. It should be soaked in, not just tolerated.
In a 1916 article in The Bulletin (San Francisco), well-known author and adventurist Jack London put into words more elegantly my thoughts on this matter of living life to the fullest.
“I would rather be ashes than dust! Instead, my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze; then, it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
My biggest takeaway from Jack London’s quote is that we should take risks. We should put ourselves out there and not be content with just going through the motions. It is better to take risks, expend all our energy in the pursuit of something worthy or noble than to sit idly by and, as Jack London put it, “be stifled by dry-rot.”
Ironically, London lived out his quote – dying at the age of 40 – but not before traveling the world, chronicling his adventures, becoming a successful author and journalist, and living life to the fullest.
Earle Labor, author of Jack London – An American Life, wrote this about him:
“He was a fighter. He was a terrific competitor. He wanted to win whatever he did. He was also a genius. He had terrific personal charm or charisma. Everybody talks about that. At the same time, while he was physically tough, he was emotionally sensitive. He sounds like a man who lived the life he wanted.”
I am not saying we should all live our lives in debauchery and flame out and die young. We should all be willing to take risks to do what we want to do.
If you want more time for yourself and your family, go on adventures, serve your fellow citizens, or not have to ever worry about money again, then take risks and take steps to break away from the norms that will get you there.