One of the teasers of my school days went thus: ‘Is life worth living? One of us would respond; It depends on the liver’.
There were alternative interpretations to the word liver. Life depends either on the person who lives or on one of the visceral organs of his body.
We will talk about the whole person. That great American of early days Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of”.
In other words, if you value your life, you must take care of the time in which you live. Never waste time, do something useful to yourself and your community or country.
A profound thinker once asked the Invisible why was I born in this age, neither earlier, nor later? The answer he got was: “So that you may contribute to solving problems of this age which are not exactly like the problems of the previous age or the next age.”
At what age can a person start to be useful? Right from the moment he or she enters this world through birth to the moment they leave the earth through death. A baby gives joy to its mother when it smiles and when it cries to signify it wants to be fondled. The birth of a baby cements the bonds of its parents’ marriage, enhances mutual affection between mother and father. When a husband and wife have quarrelled, the birth or presence of the baby softens their tempers. This is true of good parents.
The father of that branch of psychology called psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, taught that the first five years of a child are the most crucial for its future. It will live a successful or unsuccessful, a neurotic or a happy life depending on the way it was treated during the first five years of its existence. Perhaps there are fewer people who subscribe to this teaching these days than existed during Freud’s lifetime.
All the same, it is a very lucky child who is brought up by caring parents or guardians–parents or guardians who give their child ample and nutritious food, expose him to the best education. In the modern age, without education the opportunities of life will pass you by.
When a child reaches adolescence, he begins to question the wisdom of his parents and guardians. This is because of the contacts he makes outside the home. Some of his peers will give him the kind of influence that contradicts family values, others will give him those that affirm what he has already acquired in the home. It is at this stage that a youth selects a path to his future life that will either make him great or petty, happy or miserable. He may not have a chief aim in life. In that case, nothing really eventful will happen in his life. Like a pig, he will eat, drink and go to sleep, that is all. Things will impinge on him, he will not make them happen. When you do nothing, nothing happens.
Does it always pay to do what parents tell you to do or what they want you to be? Whoever discovers his aptitude in early life and finds a job much to his liking is on the first leg to success. Sometimes parents, especially fathers, have misjudged their children’s potentials. Whenever the son or daughter has tried to follow a different vocation, disagreement with parents has followed.
Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain during World War II, performed poorly in the classics (Greek and Latin) at Harrow, one of England’s most famous public schools. This cost him his father’s affection. Whenever he was back home, Lord Randolph would not talk to his son for several days.
Some of the things students are forced to learn at school do not matter much for their future. Winston Churchill took this view. Later, in his autobiography, with his usual love of understatements, he wrote of himself and others who concentrated on English and history subjects: “We are not at a disadvantage.”
In later life, Churchill became a writer of history books, a biographer, orator and great prime minister, thanks, among other things, to his mastery of English and history.
Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish 19th century author wrote that life asks us all; are you going to be a hero or a coward, and that the history of a nation is made up of its great people. Are you trying hard to be great life is made of time and struggle. Whoever values time and struggles hard to make this a better world and time to live in deserves to live long. n