“Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?” So queries Henry David Thoreau in the chapter, “What I Live For” in Walden. Reading the context reveals that even in the mid-1800s it seemed to Thoreau that many people scurried here and there with alacrity engaging in activities that did not contribute to a foundational sense of well-being. For the author, simply accruing wealth and a big pile of toys often left one with a life not characterized by joy, meaning, and peace.
In O’Hara’s Choice by Leon Uris, Amanda writes to her lover Zachary about “living a life of important intent.” Important intent is built upon bedrock values, and Uris would agree with Thoreau that self-interest as one’s support structure quite often leads to a sense of unfulfillment and pointlessness.
This from Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Of course, self-interest inherent in each person’s makeup, but the path to a worthwhile life is keeping it low-key in relation to a concern for others. The philosophical economist Adam Smith put it this way: “To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature.”
Last quote. A fellow named Paul wrote a couple of thousand years ago (paraphrase of the Greek): “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Try to imagine what a world would look like if everybody live by this principle.