Living vs. Living For

“Realise the fact that you simply ‘live’ and not ‘live for.'” That’s one of Bruce Lee’s many Striking Thoughts.

To live for is to compress the vastness of life into a small, one-, maybe two-dimensional box. It is an act of contortion in which we try to steer the river of life, use force to bend it to our will. Usually, the river reacts by becoming a raging torrent. Whatever flimsy, three-garden-hoses-tied-together construction we’ve built slips from our hands, and by the end of it, all we have to show for is a wet face.

Living, on the other hand, is simple. It happens every day, whether we plan it or not, direct our actions or not, run around stressed or not. Living is what happens when we are engaged, when we are in life rather than thinking about life, somehow hoping to design it to fix the past or guarantee the future.

The Stoics believed that logos, an invisible yet material, ever-present, all-penetrating force guided life, and that this force was driven by reason, goodness, and meaning. I like to think of it as “the lifestream,” a similar power described in Final Fantasy VII.

Given there was a larger plan in place, a plan headed towards better despite all of life’s problems, the Stoics thought we could either go along with the plan or resist it, but eventually, the plan would unfold either way. The image they used was a dog tied to a moving cart: The dog can choose to walk next to the cart and match its pace, or it can refuse and be dragged forward anyway. Whether we believe in destiny or not, life serves us what it serves. We can either accept it or reject it, but today’s dinner won’t change.

Living for is the stubborn child sitting on the ground: It’ll only hurt its bum when the cart of life moves on. True living is flowing, going with life wherever it may lead us, and the more we can do that – enjoy what’s in front of us and adapt as best as we can – the happier we’ll be.

Take a break from living for. If only for a day, just live. Feel the power of the logos. Let the lifestream guide you. Who knows? You might find a new way to spend your limited time on this earth.