A human being is spiritual, without any need for a physical body. Having been created in God’s image, human survival is sustainable without a physical body. Nothing can be said to be admirable when considering what physical humans go through in physical existence. While thousands are born each day, thousands also die in miserable conditions. Physical existence can be interesting to some, but unsatisfying to others. Everyone dreads death and yet everyone knows that death is an inevitable phenomenon.
Death does not consider the person’s age, status or racial background. Everyone faces death, one way or the other. A hundred years of survival is too short an existence, as to motivate the preservation of physical life. Let alone a litany of problems experienced during physical existence. Disappointments, illnesses, material loss and the loss of loved ones are among the unacceptable experiences, too costly to endure. Attaining old age is probably the worst when considering the fast-paced world we live in.
When young, I used to run and do hard work, impossible for me in my old age. This complicates my question of why one desires survival, even in one’s wrinkled old age. Is the fear of death caused by not knowing what lies beyond death or caused by ignorance of one’s identity? Both enigmas have a role in causing a desire to cling on to physical existence. However, beyond the fear of death, for ordinary people, desiring to survive physically is limited to pride and sexual desires.
Most people frantically desire to achieve greater things that magnify their greatness, when compared to other fellow humans. Egotism, attainable after outcompeting others, can be one of the most alluring factors in yearning for survival. Without competition, life is considered empty for physical humans, who cannot live beyond a century. Unhappiness is caused by the inability to achieve dignified successes in physical life. Education is as important as it would enhance one’s egotistical status in society.
Acquiring riches is solely for elevating the egotistical status, rather than benefiting other people. What is considered essential in physical existence is the acquisition of honour and status in society. Hence poverty is most dreaded, yet helpful in maintaining humility. Most people find no reason to survive, as long as poor. They always dream of achieving greater success, leading them to receive honour and praise from fellow humans.
The sole reason for adulating self-centeredness is pride, being the seed of all evil. Envy is born out of pride. Corruption is a result of pride. Witchcraft is nurtured by pride. Wars are perpetuated by pride. Criminality is advocated out of a desire to acquire wealth, aiming at achieving the status of importance among fellow humans. Material possessions enhance chances of achieving prideful echelons in society. One feels happier when driving an expensive vehicle and in possession of commonly considered unattainable products.
In short, pride is premised on self-centeredness. The egotistical concern is always about how people view one and not how one views fellow humans. Altruism is foreign to proud people. A proud person rejoices when becoming noticeably affluent in one’s community. That person gets injured egotistically, due to another person’s successes being considered as threatening his/her elevated status. For instance, he/she rejoices, as long as others remain in abject poverty.
Proud people seem unable to ever imagine the possibility of their material possessions ever diminishing. This is just like when in good health; proud people cannot imagine life ever perishing. Proud people can be categorized as antisocial, preferring to suppress others, for purposes of maintaining their status of importance in society. The funniest thing about pride is that even though holding a position of honour, the person remains unhappy. Such people become ill when those they despise and victimize, achieve better things in life.
The only positive attribute of pride is that proud people can be commendably hard-working. The whole purpose of hard work would be to maintain superior statuses, sustaining their importance in society. Many people are known to be hard-working but rarely benefit anyone except aiming at enhancing their own ego. What keeps them busy is not the concern for other people’s livelihood, but the concern, intended to avoid being overtaken by others, status-wise. It is the spirit of competition that keeps them on the run.
Other than pride, sex and gluttonous behaviour brings another dimension, causing the desire for physical existence. To some people, life without adequate food and sex is viewed as empty. While tasty foods can be factored in, among longevity wishes, sexual desires take the lead. Most people cannot be convinced that pleasure can be possible without sex.
Nevertheless, physical existence is desirable, only for purposes of adding value to fellow humans. The only most satisfying pleasure is doing what gladdens one’s fellows. One may not necessarily have to be a Christian, to generate happiness in other people’s lives. Doing what identifies with one’s talents attracts admiration from fellow humans, which then grants true happiness.
In this category, we find highly effective artists, comedians, professional sportspeople, good teachers and many other commendable performers in their respective fields. These people perish like everyone else but are observed as happier than those driven by pride in their endeavours. Such good performers are different from those inclined to pursue careers for purposes of earning recognition but lacking innate aptitude.
They enjoy doing what they love doing, which enables them to attain professionalism. The world is happier with such people. When intrinsic politicians are allowed to be in politics, the people rejoice. In Christianity, God’s work grows by leaps and bounds, with such people in positions of authority. The Holy Spirit motivated early apostles, under the most difficult conditions. The apostle Paul intimated being divided between desiring to be with Christ or to live on.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me” (Philippians 1:21-26 NIV).
The apostle Paul found satisfaction in serving fellow Christians in Philippi. His desire to continue living was not driven by anything but adding value to those people. His life appeared unpleasant, enduring prison life, but his satisfaction was drawn from serving other people. We are not all called to be like Paul. Each of us was created to do what God expects of each person. Jesus was the Christ, whose satisfaction was drawn from precisely following God’s will, leading to His crucifixion.
Paul was an apostle of Jesus, but not different from those called to serve in different categories. Having been called by Jesus, each Christian ought to establish the purpose for which God created him/her. The proper identity of each personality determines his happiness in this life, enjoying serving fellow Christians, as determined by God. This is different from working for the sake of working, to maintain adulation from society, but without happiness.
Those succeeding, when applying principles of serving fellow humans, can also attain desirable happiness, even without the Holy Spirit. They may not be religious. But such people would be different from those seeking happiness out of greed and manipulation of other fellow humans. The ability to perceive differences between attaining happiness out of serving other people and being served by others can be highly commendable.
Happiness derived out of serving others is genuine, whereas, happiness out of being served by others makes one feel indebted. Happiness is achievable only when other people are happy. The people who cause suffering are those seeking to acquire happiness out of manipulating other fellow humans. This includes those assuming that happiness is possible, only when drawn out of ego.
From this can be drawn a philosophical conclusion that happiness is a product of altruism rather than of self-centeredness. As long as serving out of a desire to earn something, it is impossible for such people to ever achieve happiness. However, as long as one adds value and makes other people happy, one would be in the category of genuinely happy people.
It is impossible for a medical doctor to be happy when in the medical profession for purposes of status and earning a higher income. Valuable life and happiness are found in satisfying the needy, without, necessarily getting anything from such needy people. Happy people are those who cause others to be happy in society. Otherwise, we have people with large sums of money, but remaining extremely unhappy.
Fascinatingly, some parents pamper expensive gifts to their children, assuming that to be granting happiness to their children. They later get surprised when such pampered children hook up with drug peddlers. The parental disappointments arise from the inability to appreciate that true happiness is derived from giving to the needy, rather than receiving from other people. What would be needed by those children is a good education, more than unnecessary pampers.
This does not suggest a regimented type of giving to the needy. A person can only be able to give what he/she possesses, and not necessarily give without sufficient provisions. Each person is born with exclusive talents, not possessed by other fellow humans. Such a talent could be a gladdening smile to other people. It could be cleaning up or ensuring orderliness in one’s space.
The greatest gift a parent could provide to his/her children is helping the child identify his/her natural talents. A loving parent avoids talking about how highly paying; a certain profession would be, to his/her son. A good parent talks about how valuable that child could be in society, helping the child to identify his/her intrinsic talent.
Cleaning is considered as most degraded; stereotyped for categorization under low-class people. And yet the services of such people are indispensable, sought after in all spheres of life. Cleaners are lowly paid, because cleaning is generally given to untrained people, considered as having no purpose in life. Cleaning is arduous, as not appealing to lazy people.
But even playing football requires hard work, and yet attracts high remuneration packages. Untrained cleaners are not different from untalented medical doctors, who, though highly paid, and honoured, are known to be ineffective. Medical doctors who are solely for earning money and respect are different from those with a passion for serving the sick people.
Similarly, a cleaner who would have accepted employment just to earn income, due to joblessness, is different from a professional cleaner. Any shoddy activity comes from those without a passion for the task at hand. Such people need supervision, without which there can never be any production.
Providing cleaning services through strict supervision is not different from slavery. The person might be receiving income at the end of the month but without satisfaction. This is just as a doctor in the medical profession without passion derives no satisfaction, although receiving income.
Mercenary doctors are different from professional doctors who desire to help people, without even focusing on income. This is why early missionaries are credited with sterling work in Africa, for which they may not have been paid sufficiently. They derived joy in helping the poor natives, more than propaganda would have us believe that they were wicked colonizers.
The lives of David Livingstone, Robert Moffat and others can be fascinating. Nothing suggests that those people were driven by monetary gains when choosing to die in African jungles. They derived joy in advancing civilization to the people of a dark continent. As Africans, we owe them gratitude. These were extremely happy people, notwithstanding that they died in foreign lands.
The purpose of living in this world is worthwhile to those providing service to needy people. They improve other people’s lives, whose quality enhances the tradition that promotes the ability to interrelate and sustain goodwill. Those who assume that there would be value in wealth accumulation, die without ever achieving happiness. The happy ones are only those who observe life improvements, resulting from their benevolent activities.
Living in this world is too brief. People subscribe to the traditions of burying their loved ones. But the most formidable question to ask is whether there would have been any reason for toiling, in the first place. Life is meaningful, only when other people would have benefitted from that person’s contributions. At the end of one’s life, the most satisfying answer to the question of purpose for living is whether one would have benefitted the needy. This is different from always assuming that life is about satisfying the self and nourishing the ego.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those who have witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99