We are living beings, intelligent enough to be self-aware, who are aware of our own agency and actions. Mere survival is not enough. Because we have agency, we have a gift, but it is a double-edge sword. We can spiral into ourselves. To avoid this existential plunge into the abyss, we must grab footholds. What are these footholds?
Thankfulness We must recognize our circumstances and benefactors. We must understand that others have poured into us. Parents, teachers, and mentors. We did not, nor could we have, raised ourselves. The moment we think we are self-made, that the world owes us, is the moment we spiral into narcissism, a gateway to the abyss.
Own Our Decisions We make decisions that have consequences. Some decisions will further our success, while others will lead to failure. We must own our decisions. The moment we start blaming others for our failures is the moment we begin spiraling into perdition.
Face Our Losses We will all experience gain and loss in life. We will lose places and people. It is an inevitable part of the human experience. We must face those losses and grieve them. But we must not remain mired in grief. We must again face the world with its risks and joys. If we remain withdrawn from the world, we spiral into darkness.
Be Fully Present We must be fully present to those around us. If we live in the past or in the future, then we are not here, in the present. As a result the people around us become irrelevant, a void in time. String these empty, distracted moments together and they become a continuous void, a path into the abyss.
"So many people have this idea: I want to achieve something great or be somebody great. And they neglect the step that leads to greatness. They don't honor this step at this moment because they have this idea of some future moment where they are going to be great." -Eckhart TolleService/Care for Others We must care for those around us. When we care for others, we illuminate our souls. If we harden our hearts, ignoring the needs of those around us, we find another path in the abyss.
“Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person”. -Tennessee WilliamsRedemption Redemption allows us to see and reclaim value in disappointments, bad experiences, human weakness, pain, and grief.
"Nothing [no life experience] is wasted" - Patrick StewartA redemptive view reclaims value out of what others consider a loss. The only alternative to a redemptive view is a dark nihilism and that is another path into the abyss.
Faith Too many of us believe we can live without faith in something (or someone) outside ourselves. It seems fashionable these days to live life with no regard for the infinite or eternal.
“I realized that no one lives without faith, not even the strictest rationalist”- TolstoyAs a result, the moral elements of religious teaching have been discarded. The Torah teaches that we were made "Image of God". The Catholic Church teaches that human life is sacred and that the "dignity of the human person" is the foundation of a moral vision for society. A purely materialist view is "survival of the fittest" and as we have seen recently and in history, this is a path into the abyss.
Help We will need help to find these footholds. Recently, solo climbing of Mt Everest was banned because too many people were dying in the attempt to go it alone. The same is true with us. We need help. We need each other, not just at the beginning of our lives, nor at the end, but all along the way. Let's be humble enough and brave enough to reach out for help when we need it and let's be equally humble and generous to provide the help, to be that foothold that someone else is desperately looking for.