How Can We Appreciate Life More?

After last week’s question addressed death, this week we want to ask about the reverse: how to get the most out of our lives. A key part of being happy is to appreciate the pleasures and the joys of life.

In one respect, this should be easy, since there is so much of which to be appreciative. We live in a golden age, with greater knowledge about ourselves, about the universe, and about the world than we have ever had, as well as having increased ease of access to that information. In addition, we can travel just about anywhere in the world we might want to go, and food and goods from anywhere in the world can be delivered to our doorstep.

While money is important to be able to access these and other benefits of our society and income inequality continues to increase, it’s also true that more people across the world have been lifted out of poverty than at any time in human history.

On the other hand, it’s hard to appreciate what we have when we see all that we don’t. It is human nature to be constantly trying to improve our circumstance in the world, and that means identifying life’s deficiencies and striving to overcome them.

On top of that, it seems like we are surrounded with negativity. The ever-increasingly interconnected world means problems from other places take on greater significance at home. If news coverage is always focused on the problems of the country or the world, from natural disasters to war and political unrest, it can be very difficult to be optimistic about your life.

And yet, it is important for our own mental health, as individuals as well as collectively as a society, that we appreciate what we have. How can we do that, without losing sight of those less fortunate? How can we appreciate what we have without feeling guilty when there are people who don’t have what we have? How can we overcome the negative environment that surrounds us?

How can we appreciate life more? How can we focus on what we have and not on what we don’t?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life?What is the purpose of money?How can we maintain wonder?What does it mean to be thankful?What was the best time in your life?

Why Are People Afraid Of Death?

Death is something that we all have in common. We all know people who have died, and we will all die ourselves. It doesn’t matter what your race, the amount of money or power you have, or what country you come from. We may be able to postpone death, but it will come for us all eventually.

Because of this, death appears quite often in art, literature, movies, and other social platforms. One of the most common reactions to the possibility of death is that of fear. People are scared at the idea of no longer being alive. Not fear regarding a violent or unhappy death, which would obviously be unpleasant and should be avoided, but at the simple fact of no longer being alive.

Should people be afraid? In media, it is also common to point out that life is difficult, and a struggle, and often unfair. It often requires hard work to succeed, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything. Why should anyone fear that coming to an end?

No one seems to think about the time before they were born as being lonely, or with any regret, or sadness. Why should the time after they die be one that should be feared?

What happens when we die is a mystery, although there are no shortage of ideas. Some believe in a spiritual afterlife filled with reward for the just, and punishment for the wicked. Others think we are reincarnated and come back to do it all over again. Some think we simply cease to be, and death is the end of an individual. Or do we come back as ghosts and haunt the living?

That sense of unknown may be what gives rise to fear. We often fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. Maybe some of us like our lives and regret losing out on what we already have. Or maybe the fear comes from imagining the grief experienced by those we leave behind.

What’s your theory? Why are people afraid of death?

Related questions: What happens when we die? What is time? What do we have in common? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?

What Book Has Had the Biggest Impact on You?

Of the books you have read, which one has meant the most to your life?

Share why if you wish.

Michael’s Answer:  Mine is Wendell Berry’s What Are People For?  This was the first book I read from Berry.  It changed how I saw myself in relation to the environment, the economy, and my love of growing food.

Lee’s Answer: There are lots of possible answers, and on a different day I might have a different selection. Today I’ll choose What It Is by Lynda Barry. The book is part creative guide, part art object, part memoir, and part philosophy text. I found it inspiring, challenging, and unforgettable.