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Where there’s life…?

One of my mother’s go-to phrases was “where there’s life there’s hope”. When anyone was going through real difficulty or if there was real uncertainty about the future, this was her standard response. It was meant to comfort and give some glimmer of reassurance to the person receiving this wisdom, and (mostly because of her overwhelmingly positive outlook on life) often proved accurate in the long term. Of course, being a West Indian mother, this philosophy on life was deeply rooted in her religious belief. Any positive outcome wrought through adversity was, of course, due to the hand of God (and in our household, was somehow specifically tied to the teachings of Jesus Christ). To her credit, she viewed negative life events through a similar prism – bad times and life’s challenges were, to her, also being moulded by the hand of God – either as a test of faith, or through her conviction that God is there somewhere, in these difficult phases in our life (maybe we just couldn’t quite see him at the time?)

My father, on the other hand, had a much more open minded view of religion and of God. He grew up in a Hindu house, but followed the Christian religion from childhood. In fact, when they were due to be married, it came as a bit of a shock to the minister in their church that my father had never been baptised, particularly given his involvement in church activities! A baptism was hastily arranged prior to the wedding! He clearly believed in God, but maybe his ideas of who or what that meant were less rigid. He really felt a sense of responsibility to doing the right thing and doing things right. I am not sure about his views of life after death, but I am clear that death itself held no fear or anxiety for him – he accepted this as simply a part of life. His overall philosophy on life was that we are here on earth to look after one another, and that in itself is sufficient reason to be your best person while you walk your path. The right thing was simply what needed to be done, with no ulterior motive. Helping your fellow man and making the world a better place was not just the task – it was the reward!

 

So where does that leave me? Throughout my life, I have been powerfully influenced by these two highly spiritual individuals, and I have drawn from both their life views. But what does that mean in practice? Well, firstly, my views on God are, to put it mildly, far less concrete than my parents – where they were certain, I am doubtful. Where they saw absolute proof, I see a lack of clarity. Having grown up in a devoutly religious household, the thought of questioning the existence of God has always scared me a bit. But the truth is I am just not sure, and yet my life goes on, with its own moral and spiritual compass intact. Secondly, my views on death are, let’s just say, different. But that is for another blog!

 

What is my philosophy on life? I struggle to think of this as a ‘philosophy’, given the amount of ongoing soul-searching and self-doubt, but I do have some guiding ideas that help me make it through the maze of life. Here are some core beliefs that help me through the day. 

 

To paraphrase my mother, “where there’s hope there’s life”. I strongly believe that hope in life is itself a powerful source of energy and motivation. Our hopefulness is the first step towards creating a positive tomorrow and living today to its fullest. Even in the most challenging and oppressive times, this hope can lift us up and give us a reason to persist and move forward.

 

Like the man said, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ (Bobby McFerrin). When this song first came out, I instantly recognised is as my life anthem! This may sound ridiculous, but this is truly how I have lived my life. I am the last of five children, and grew up surrounded by the love and protection of my elder siblings and parents. I have always really lived a privileged life! This has given me the space to be truly thankful and happy about all aspects of my life, and I feel that I should share this happiness with others, as much as I can. This is not to say I don’t experience sadness, self-doubt and negative feelings. I do, as much as anyone else. However, even in these times, I have my happiness to draw from and to lift me up. Doesn’t always work, but still worth a try!

 

My father’s most lasting legacy on me is the idea that our real purpose in life is service to others. I believe that helping other people is why we are here, and that doing this is what makes us happy and fulfilled. This is not to say that we can’t indulge in a little selfish pleasure from time to time – the two ideas are not, in my mind, mutually exclusive! But helping others is what really makes us tick as a community – without this, there is little reason to live communally or share our lives with others. Like my father I believe that this can and should be done without a thought to any ulterior motive. We’re not doing this for a place in heaven, or societal recognition or awards or a place in history. Our primary motivation can simply be the help that we provide and the upliftment that it brings to ourselves and others. I remember being asked to talk at my alma mater’s awards day some years ago. The theme was “hard work reaps rewards”. The only thing that I could honestly tell the children was that “the only reward that hard work reaps is more hard work”, but that this is a reward in itself. If this sounds like masochism, maybe it is. But the truth is that there are few things more rewarding than working hard and helping others.

These are a few of the philosophies that continue to guide my life. I am always searching, doubting and questioning myself, so none of this is set in stone. I don’t expect that any of you will adopt these wholeheartedly, but I do ask that you spend some time with your own thoughts and work out what your own approach to life is.” 

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