I’ve always thought of Victor as Frenchman. He’s lived here for many years, he has a house here, and he has children with a former fellow student of mine.
I only realised that Victor was in fact Syrian when he introduced two of his relatives to me. His grandma and his uncle. They came to visit for a while, and to see the children. Unfortunately, it was complicated. They could only get a visa for two months, and then they had to go back – to Damascus.
“Somebody with a gun, runs, yelling and shooting, into the house. You’re waiting to see if you’ll die. Or, if you won’t. At least for today.”
“From a distance, you can hear the sound of falling bombs. You’re waiting to see if they’ll kill you as well. Or if they won’t. At least for today.”
I admired their alternative view of life. For them, death didn’t have the same meaning. It was something entirely natural, only present at the end of life. They accepted the fact that death, for them, was more likely than life. When they look at a map of the Europe, with all its streets destroyed and their house still standing, they know that death awaits those who remain.
This is war. They didn’t want it, they didn’t cause it, but they accept it. While our lives are lived in peace, for others who were born elsewhere, life has reached a dead-end. Without cause, and without logic, it just happened. And no one has the power to turn it around.
When I said goodbye to them, it was an emotive moment. They were still living. It was much like recently, when a friend of mine was dying of a serious disease. He still thought, he still spoke. Nevertheless, it was although he’d already reached the other bank of the river. And he couldn’t get back across to mine.
I asked him: What matters in someone’s last moments?
How would he change his life direction, if he were given a second chance?
How should I live, so I don’t one day have regrets?
For as long as he had the strength, he answered my questions. I was writing his answers deep in my heart. And I have been trying to obey them ever since. I have also dedicated a part of my book 250 Laws of Love to it. Because we still have the chance, at any given moment, to change our own path.
What, then, should really matter?
The first key point:
It’s better to look back on your life and say, “it’s a pity it didn’t work out”, than “it’s a pity I never tried”.
When time runs out, there’s no second chance. Then, people regret most the things they didn’t try. Usually, they were afraid of failure. But the only way to find out if something will fail, is to try.
My friend told me how he’d been held back by someone he greatly respected. But, later, that person had left his life. He was left with nothing but an unfulfilled dream, wondering why he never tried.
It sounds selfish, but the only person we can rely on to always be there, is our self. Life will give us opportunities for as long as we have time on Earth, no longer. And it’s always worth trying. Even when we don’t succeed. At least, that way, we can reach out for our dreams. Ultimately, there will always be someone judging us. They’ll judge us, either because we try to achieve something, or because we don’t. There’ll always be someone with a reason to gossip about us.
I, too, wanted to impress other people, and live my life according to them. This was before I realised that others’ impressions of me are just like steam over a boiling pot beneath. Though the steam may warm you up for a moment, it soon disappears. And the only thing with permanent meaning is self-esteem. We should live in a way that allows us to be self-appreciating, and self-respecting.
The second key point:
Work on yourself, so you become rich in fulfilment.
Dying with a feeling of wealth is important. But it’s important to understand the true meaning of the word ‘wealth’. Wealth means an abundance. When Immanuel Kant was dying, he simply said: “Thank you, it is enough.”
Life isn’t measured by time, but by actions. And our wealth comes from them. Those who, at the end of life, have nothing to offer but money, die very poor. The reason being, money will exist even without the person, but personal experience, conclusions, and knowledge, can never be replaced. It’s because of these things, that mankind has developed. It’s only thanks to them, that we don’t start life at the prehistoric level, but on a level with our immediate ancestors. As such, mankind passes on its relay baton, and continues to develop.
Don’t focus on the price of life, but on the value of people, things, and experience. The most beautiful days, that we reflect on most fondly in the moments before we pass, are surprisingly the ordinary ones. The days when we rejoice and laugh. The days when we’re happy. The days that didn’t need anything special, or expensive. As late as at the end of life, we realize that things with high value didn’t have a high price at all. What is valuable need not be expensive. While price is measured in money, value is measured only in fulfilment. In the level of success, and happiness.
What should we do about things we lack?
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