Here is an oldie but goodie from a famous author who is virtually unknown for his spiritual writings. *Hint: He wrote the epic novel “War and Peace”*
IS THIS LIFE?
From the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed our lives consist of a series of acts. Every day we must decide, from all the possibilities, what it is we will do. But without guidance in the choice of our actions we are lost.
How are we to decide? What will guide us? For the most part we turn to an interminable number of facts and actions that make up what is called propriety, custom, and duty, even sacred duty. We look around us to see what others are doing and believe that the people who do these things know why they are doing them. We become convinced that what we are doing has meaning, if not wholly known to us, at least known to others.
But these very same people whom we look to ﬁnd themselves in the same situation. They do what they do only because others, who, as it seems to them, have an explanation of these deeds, demand the same from them. And thus, involuntarily deceiving each other, we each become ever more accustomed, not only to these things without understanding why, but become accustomed to ascribing to our deeds some mysterious, incomprehensible meaning. And the less we understand the meaning of what we do, the more dubious these acts become, the more importance we attach to them, and with all the greater solemnity do we carry them out.
Rich and the poor, we all behave and act like those around us and think we are doing our duty, reassuring ourselves by the thought that what has been done for so long by so many people, and is so highly prized by them, cannot but be the real business of life. And we live on to old age, and die, believing that even if we ourselves do not know why we live, why we are here, others know the reason for living — the very people who know precisely as little about it as we who depend upon them.
Add to this, new people come into existence, are born, grow up, and, looking upon this whirlpool of existence called life —in which old, gray, respected men, surrounded by the reverence of the people, assert that this senseless commotion is life, and that there is no other — go away clueless after being jostled at life’s doors. Such a one who has never beheld an assembly of people, having seen a crowding, lively, noisy throng at the entrance, and having decided that this is the assembly itself, after having been elbowed at the door, goes home with aching ribs and under the full conviction that he has actually been in the assembly.
The whole of our complicated, seething activity, with our busyness, our wars, our means of communication, our science and our art, is, for the most part, only the thronging of the clueless crowd about the doorway of life.
We pierce mountains, we ﬂy around the world, we have electricity, microscopes, telephones, wars, parliaments, philanthropy, universities, scholarly societies, museums — but what is it all for? Is this life?