Ask a soldier the meaning of ‘life’

Rather than using a dictionary to define the term ‘life,’ ask a soldier…

You may wonder why I am telling you to do such a thing when you can simply define the term using various dictionaries available to you. But if you want to know the true meaning of the term ‘life’ a soldier will know the honest answer. Why? Because, every second that a soldier is on the battlefield, he is faced with death. In any split second, he may lose his life. And when he returns back to camp from the battlefield, he lays there having faced death, knowing the true meaning of life.

The meaning of ‘life’ is different for each and every individual. What does it mean to you? Imagine you are a cathedral. Over many years, the cathedral changes shape and is refurbished many times. Yet inside that cathedral remains a space. What is it that fills that space? If that space is filled, that is the meaning of life for you. Life is the thing that fills up that space and emptiness.

Soldiers are, however, always fighting. Fighting for love. Fighting for the love of their country, for the love of their people, for the love of the monarch. One may ask: why fight for love when we can simply love? ‘Love’ is another word with profound meaning; and sometimes over-used in daily life. We love our friends, our families, our partners, our jobs, material items. There are many things we love. But sometimes this love turns in to a compromise and we become ruled by what we think we should love and how we think we should love. For example, with marriage, we think we should all have the ‘happy ever after.’ We believe in a certain type of love. A love that comes with expectations, compromises, adjustments and changes. Because we have been made to believe in a type of love, this is the reason we never really understand it. We attempt to contain and control love but in truth, it is everywhere. Paulo Coelho writes in his novel ‘The Zahir’: ‘we can harness the energy of the winds, the seas, the sun. But the day man learns to harness the energy of love, that will be as important as the discovery of fire.’ However, if we manage to harness the energy of love, we are still trying to control it. ‘Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.’ When we let it free, it fills up that space in the cathedral and no longer hits the closed windows and doors, but travels through them freely.

I go back to the anecdote of the soldier. If we live each moment as if it is our last, this does not mean that we are thinking of death at every turn – it means that we are not thinking at all. Thinking takes time; doubt holds us in paralysis; and fear stops us completely. But death reminds us that each moment is precious because each moment could be the end. ‘It is not life that matters, but the journey.’ It may be a journey on a battlefield, it may be a spiritual journey, but it is the journey that makes the life. So make that journey one to remember. And when you are faced with death, make sure you are still alive.

This blog entry has been inspired by the remarkable novel ‘The Zahir’ written by renound author Paulo Coelho.