An Essay in Life


What’s Important?


We are confronted with things that are important- but to who? What’s important to me may not be important to you. We can ask ourselves what’s important, but what does that really mean? Does it mean that what we consider important may not really be important in the big scheme of things? Maybe we’re not important at all, or maybe we are but just don’t know it yet. Or maybe we need someone else to compare ourselves to feel important, or maybe we need someone to praise us to feel important. A lot of people take the approach of belittling someone else to feel important, or by comparing themselves to others to believe they’re more important. But are they really as important as they feel they are? Does feeling important have anything to do with being important? Is being important really that important to us? Does importance have an importance in itself? Maybe it’s not important. What matter does the importance of one thing have over another? Who decides what’s more important anyways? Who’s to say one person’s child is more important than another or another person’s heart worth more than another?


We lose our way from time to time when we forget what’s important to us. Some spend a lifetime looking and never think they find it. We’ve become a culture seeking fulfilment in physical things and tangibles that often we overlook the everyday gifts that bring us the greatest joys- simple pleasures, clean air, beautiful bird songs, ice cream, good company, kind words, a helping hand, the majesty of nature, the leaves changing colours in fall, the flowers blooming in spring. We take so many things for granted and concentrate so much on the ownership of things that something that seems to have importance one moment, suddenly loses its luster the next. Perhaps what’s truly important to each of us is simpler than we may believe. Perhaps it lies at the foundation of each of our beings, found in the basic structure of who each of us are: our values and beliefs, our hopes and dreams, our ideals and our passions.


The world breathes onto us, and in return, each of us breathes onto the world. Life, happiness, and passion are wound around the essence of our beings like white doves flocking about an ancient colossus bathed by the sun of life, a magnificient structure we shape with our own hands each day, every day. We are what we value and what we believe of ourselves. We are capable of as much or as little as we lead ourselves to believe. We have the gift of free-will to decide each day, each hour, each minute who we are and what we will do the coming day and each day after that. We make choices every day, we live everyday, and in grief, a little of us dies every day. But like the surf rolling across the beach of time, the sands of life are replenished with each stroke of the tide. Nature always returns what she takes away.


Within each of us is the embodiment of life. We live every day. Each of us has within our beings hopes and dreams. Within our souls we hold our values and our beliefs about the universe. And next to our hearts we hold our ideals and our passions. Like hundreds of thousands of candles shining in the darkness, we are one in ourselves and one together. Each of us is never quite as alone as we ever think we are. And by living everyday we find meaning in ourselves, meaning in our lives, and meaning in our hearts, however brief each of the flames burning in our souls shines in this vast symphony of stars.


On one level we simply are. On another we must also recognize that through living, we also make choices about who we will become. We touch others every day with our words, with our words, our actions, and with our joy and our grief. And they in turn touch our hearts in similar ways. The world isn’t always perfect, but the choices we make are ours alone, based solidly upon our values and ideals. We may choose every day to be angels, granting wishes, helping those in need, caring, and inspiring others with our words, with our passions, with our hopes and our dreams. We may believe however we wish about the universe- whether God created man or man created God- the choices we make every day are still ours. And subsequently we have the responsibility to look at ourselves each day and ask ourselves who we are and what is it that’s truly important to each of us.


What’s important to me? What should I do differently today that didn’t work yesterday? Am I happy with the choices I made? What can I do from this point on about who I am inside to make myself a better person if I’m not happy with who I am now? What do I fear and why? And what is it that’s really important in my life? Is acquiring material wealth no matter the cost really that important? Is being seen, worshipped, or placed on a pedestal really that important to make me feel like a worthwhile individual? Is feeling that I fit in a group so important that it’s worth sacrificing my ideals, values, and everything I believe?


We are each one flame among billions, each blessed with the greatest gift of all, the freedom to choose. Life is all about choices, touching others, and being touched by the acts of others each day. It’s about who we really are. It’s about finding our true selves and being honest about what we feel and what we believe every hour of every day. It is absolutely important that each of us never surrender those things we feel are right and true within ourselves. To do so would only leave us feeling like we’ve betrayed the foundations of who we are. Never surrender the honesty of your hopes, your dreams, or your values, no matter what anyone says. In the end, the person you really have to live with isn’t your parents, your friends, or those who pressure you into doing things. It’s YOU.


Never forget from where you came. Never lose sight of where you are. And always look forward to where you want to go to chart your course over the great oceans of life. Some will navigate by the stars, some by the charts, and others by the winds alone. They all reach destinations and exotic ports of call eventually. Some stop for a while, while others journey on. But the memory of their journey will be recounted from the lips of the other travellers they met along the way. Some will recall the friendships they forged with them if not for a little while, others will recall their choices at difficult crossroads. But the most poignant memories will often be the acts of compassion or courage that leapt forth from their hearts because it was who they were.


Albert S. Wang

Originally composed March 29, 1997

Updated, August 18, 1999


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