Life, At First
By A.D. Freudenheim  

24 September 2004

How often we are all encouraged by (or, at least, in earshot of) the imperative to seize the day, to live each day to the fullest – to live each day as if it might be our last. Approaching life in such a fashion can certainly inspire, may be liberating to some and fear-inducing to others, but it should push all of us to experience life in ways we otherwise would not. To balance every story of a young life lost, we should find in ourselves the energy, will, and drive to engage with the world around us, face our fears, and experience as much as we can. Life is too short to do otherwise.

Judaism provides one framework in which to examine life over the last year, make amends for our wrongs, make peace with ourselves, and think about how we can – should – and must – be better people in the coming year. At this time of year, during the Jewish days of awe and atonement, it is hard not to reflect on life and death themes such as this one. It is, if one takes it literally, a matter of life and death to cleanse the soul and ask for the forgiveness necessary to inscribe each of us in the Book of Life. Even as a metaphor, it is a powerful time of year, a chance to explore and repair our psyche as individuals, and to heal relationships with the people with whom we share the world.

In thinking about the coming year, and a philosophy of approaching life with the vigor of one facing an unknown future, an alternative perspective presents itself: perhaps we should strive to live each day as if it was our first, not our last. Instead of focusing on our fears and how to overcome them, let us try to forget we have them in the first place – and recall a time of life when being free of worry enabled a curious and unending engagement with whatever we encountered. Rather than projecting the mortality we may feel, try to recall the childhood feeling of being immortal, when death or harm was not a concern. Most importantly, we should seek to shed our prejudices and preconceptions, to view each person we encounter, and every new idea, only for what they appear to be and nothing more.

As adults in a complicated world, one in which we hear of death and harm every day, where the news is filled with the threats we face rather than the opportunities life offers, this may sound foolish. It is not an encouragement to do something crazy, to act childish or helpless, or to forget the common sense knowledge that helps us navigate the world. Yet underlying a child’s naiveté is an openness that is too easily lost, an ability to view the world as a series of unending opportunities that encourages creativity and nurtures the soul. If we can recapture that approach to the world, what we gain in new friendships and increased knowledge will likely outweigh any of the risks of escaping from an otherwise closed, sheltered, and still dangerous world.

  Copyright 2004, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.