There was a character in a novel who constantly put his life in danger by engaging in dangerous activities. His motivations weren't noble, they arose from a much darker realm of his psyche. This character was wealthy, well-educated, athletic, well liked and involved with a woman of high society; despite all of this he felt empty inside. He brooded about the futility of life and wondered whether there was truly anything of value. The only way this fellow could feel alive was by putting himself in situations where his life could be snuffed out at any moment.
When I read about that character and his ultimate demise (a sporting accident put an end to him), I could not relate to him at all. His personality got me to thinking about others who share that point of view. Why would anyone need to prove that they're alive by bringing themselves to the brink of death? The mere fact of being serves as proof that they're indeed alive.
In my opinion what seems to lie at the heart of the matter is a lack of appreciation for life. In other words, they're alive in the basic biological sense, but they don't feel anything on an emotional level. Rather than taking pleasure in the good things of this world, they focus on tragedy. What they're experiencing is a sense of powerlessness that leaves them feeling empty inside.
Yet, we each have power within a certain sphere of influence. Never is anyone truly an island unto himself; our actions and inactions do effect others even though we may never know about them.
There was another character in that story, he wasn't as popular but his outlook was much better. He tended to focus on what he could do, his stature eventually towering over that of the aforementioned fellow. He became known for his selfless courage which was born out of his acceptance of life as a precious gift.
We each have a life, do with it what you will. But never waste it or take it for granted.
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