A Life to Spend

By B. Hagelin

In our youth eternity lies before us. How long the time seems until we are old enough to go to school, . . . to date, . . . to vote, to hold a responsible position, . . . to retire! Suddenly eternity is no longer ahead: a goodly part of life is in the past. It does no good to berate ourselves for all the wasted hours, nor can we be sure our good intentions for next time around will carry over in accessible form; perhaps some inkling will inhere to jog our future conscience and bring a modicum of wisdom to our spending of lives to come. But for now we can only husband what remains of our current action time on earth.

This calls for an evaluation of priorities. What is our desire? What do we wish to do with the years that remain, and what habits may be formed at this late stage of a constructive nature? Ambitions that seemed important in youth -- whether fulfilled or not -- no longer entice us, even as childhood's most coveted toys have been forgotten. Our tools for action may be worn and blunted but to compensate, experience has brought us gains formerly unimagined: facility in skills once laborious, thought patterns cutting cleanly across wonted meandering ones and, if we have permitted ourselves to use what gifts we have, abilities more varied and adaptable. New perspectives have emerged and qualities come to flower that perhaps were seeded in some long forgotten past. Sometimes a trait will surface that can give a whole new coloration to our self-image.

What alters us from day to day is rarely considered; yet we control the determining factors. We are free to choose our thoughts and the subjects we desire. We momently invite -- most often without purpose or intent -- the mental images and goads to action that decide the progress of our lives. This gives us a tremendous and invaluable freedom: to be, to do, to create whatever draws us most powerfully. The magnetism of desire gives direction, whereupon our will provides the impetus and mobilizes our available talents and dexterity to carry out its demands. Be it weak or strong, it is our own will guided by our choices which creates the flavor of each moment separating past from future as we step through the magic portal Now.

In our better moments we all make deliberate selection of a worthy motive over an unworthy one, desire the better rather than the inferior, but at best we find ourselves looking back over an uneven path, where effort has been sporadic and many sideslips have caused waste. It is then we realize that we need not drift with every wayward wish; we can marshal our true desires, examine, sift, and sort our motives, then select those worthy of allegiance and command our will. In every enterprise there must be such a selection; how much more does this apply to the basic enterprise of living. How straight and clear must be the path traveled by one who knows his aim and is not diverted from his direction. Or, with a life to spend, how useful it could be if every moment held the noblest effort we can muster, the highest goal, the greatest determination. No matter that each one must hold to his singular endeavor, one proper to himself, if it but be the finest in his nature; no two can be identical, yet all together must converge at the crown of human perfection, and each serve the others in a perfect whole.

(From Sunrise magazine, March 1980. Copyright © 1980 by Theosophical University Press)

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