This is what the living do: We wake in wonder at another day and gird our emotions to enter the fray. We get up, sometimes grudgingly, to face the tasks and work of life. Some of us pack light. Some of us carry the weight of our loved ones who have died. It is a burden we desperately wish were not our own, but one that we’ve resolved to never put down.
This is what the living do: We waste our life worrying about death as though we have any power to halt or delay it. We promise to be happy in some elusive future that can never materialize, because we can only live in the present. We view contentment with contempt. We want more than satisfaction; we want perpetual elation.
This is what the living do: We reach for love with one hand while making a fist with the other. We promise peace and ask for unity, but in private we arm ourselves for battle—ever prepared for war as we smile at our neighbor. We ask for what has not been offered. We take what we ourselves refuse to give. We are so consumed with our wants, that we miss what others need.
This is what the living do: We contradict ourselves. We build our own obstacles to happiness. We smother love’s seeds with fear. We try to fight injustice by pretending it isn’t there.
This is what we, the living, must do: We must never turn a blind eye. We must see what there is to see. We must hear when others cry. There is no merit in hate. There is no benefit in holding back. Let us offer what others are denied and share what so many lack.
This is what we, the living, must do: We must give, listen, and learn. Let us go boldly into existence. Let us live with purpose, compassion, and persistence. Let the banner we bring be love. And let our slogans seek to improve the world.
This is what we, the living, must do: We must live and love and be benevolent. Life cannot be saved; it can only be shared or spent. It is strengthened as it is given away and consumed as it is withheld. And so it is with love as well—those who are the most miserly with it find that they have less.
Note to the reader: This piece was inspired by Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do.”