“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Every time I read this quote, I literally get chills up and down my spine.  I do not, unfortunately, quite share Mr. Shaw’s belief that I am “a force of nature,” or that my purpose is necessarily a “mighty one” although I wish that this were so.  As for the rest of the quote, I agree with it absolutely.  I am reminded of some of my favorite lines from Tennyson’s Ulysses:

“I cannot rest from travel; I will drink 
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed 
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those 
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when 
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name; 
For always roaming with a hungry heart 
Much have I seen and known—cities of men 
And manners, climates, councils, governments, 
Myself not least, but honored of them all— 
And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. 
I am part of all that I have met; 
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades 
Forever and forever when I move. 
How dull it is to pause, to make an end. 
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! 
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life 
Were all too little, and of one to me 
Little remains; but every hour is saved 
From that eternal silence, something more, 
A bringer of new things; and vile it were 
For some three suns to store and hoard myself, 
And this gray spirit yearning in desire 
To follow knowledge like a sinking star, 
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.”

If I could write like Tennyson, now, or like George Bernard Shaw – creating the sorts of lines and phrases that might stir others the way these words stir me – then my life indeed would have a mighty purpose.  It’s tempting to retreat into apathy, to adopt a belief that my life doesn’t count for much since I wasn’t blessed (or cursed) with genius.  

But that would be side stepping the fact that we all have some sort of purpose in being here.  In Madeleine L’Engle’s book about writing, ‘Walking on Water’, she raises the point that all streams contribute to the ocean, and we are all responsible to write the stories that are given to us to tell, whether they seem important or not. 

Well, that’s it for the Saturday morning pep talk.  Now, back to your regularly scheduled challenges and mundane chores, all of which count for something.

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