Sincerity of belief

When the reaper beckons someone close to us from the house of existence into the garden of the abyss, we wonder. We ask ourselves if we’re doing enough and if we’re using our time wisely. We ask ourselves if we’re giving the people, activities and things we love due care and attention. We ask ourselves how we’re measuring up to the dead and the living that surround us. We consider the alignment between our words and our deeds, the distribution of love and hate in our minds, and our allocation of meaning and priority. In the truest of ways, death compels us to question life.

Sometimes, when I’m alone and able to let my thoughts wander freely, I end up thinking about these topics. For example, I’ll be driving home and I’ll wonder how the people around me would feel if I died in a crash. Heck, I’ll wonder how I would feel if I were to die in a crash. Would my last breath be tainted with regret and sorrow for all the things I didn’t do or say? Or would it be infused with acceptance, with the satisfaction that comes from a life well lived? Another example. Marcus Aurelius talks about pretending that, after going to sleep of an evening, you won’t wake up. How does that make you and I feel? At the end of a typical day, can we be content with the effort that we put forth during our time here?

I come back to these questions often. But recently, another has come to the fore, and it concerns the ideas of risk and sacrifice. Increasingly, as I wonder about my life, I find myself asking, “Did I take risks for what I believe in?” After all, it’s easy to signal support for ideals like freedom, justice and truth. It’s harder to bleed in the fight against tyranny, to oppose prejudice and to battle the deliberate distortion of reality. It’s easy to hold fast to principles and beliefs when there’s no penalty for doing so. It’s harder to champion those principles and beliefs when there’s a severe, definite cost attached. 

If magnitude of sacrifice is a measure of the sincerity of belief, then considering the risks we take and the sacrifices we make is one of the simplest ways to determine if we are living well and true. After all, if we venture nothing for the ideas and the ideals we hold most dear, how can we rest easy?