Living vs. Existing

“It is possible to exist without ever really living.”

I’ve been marinating on this quote for a few days now, trying to wrap my brain (and my heart) around what it’s really saying. A few random thoughts have filtered through my mind here and there, but my ordinarily insanely busy schedule hasn’t allowed me the time to sit down and put these thoughts into words, much less words that others will understand.

I asked a few friends of mine what they thought about it, and the responses were as varied as the people who gave them. Here’s a sampling:

Mr. Noah Cheek: “I think that there are days, maybe weeks, maybe even months where I have gone through and felt like I just existed. Just going through the motions was good enough. No challenges. No questioning. Wake up, go through the day, go to sleep.

[Life is about] Risk-Reward.

You can go through and not risk a whole lot. People don't risk their money, their humanity, their mortality, their heart. But those people that don't have risk, don't have a very high reward. Or the potential for reward. If you don't want to become successful financially or fall in love, then you won't. But if you do, there is that opportunity to have those riches, whether that be love or a bank account with an ample amount of 0's. You can strikeout looking, or strikeout swinging. Either way you are striking out, but if you go down swinging, you at least give yourself an opportunity to hit the ball....”

Mr. Marc Putman: “Any life without God in it IS simply existing. To really live is to seek joy that only God can give - we cannot manufacture true joy as humans.”

How many things in life do we just treat like vegetables at the dinner table, choking them down so we can go out and play? (thanks to Brenden Kirchner for the analogy)

The truth of the matter is: we never know when our last day to play is. Life doesn’t come with any sort of instruction manual. There aren’t any real rules for winning the game. And we have no way of knowing when our turn is going to be up. This isn’t meant to be a depressing thing, however. Quite the opposite, actually. You see; this magnificent mystery means that each and every day we are alive is a blessing.

In my psychology class this term, we learned about primary reinforcers. These are things that are essential for us to live. We all share many of the same primary reinforcers: air, water, food, etc. However, we also have a unique set of primary reinforcers that mean the most to us.

Here are my life’s essentials:

1. God. He created me in the beginning. He will save me in the end. He is the reason I have confidence, the reason I have hope, and the reason I have love. All blessings come from Him, and there is no way I would ever be able to live my life without His goodness and grace.

2. Love. I need to love and I need to be loved. It’s as simple and complicated as that.

3. Warmth. I need to feel warmth for both my body and my soul. Few things in life make me as happy as fresh sheets, my Mexico blanket, and someone to snuggle with. Which brings me to my next primary reinforcer…

4. Affection. For some people hugs are nice. For others they are uncomfortable. For me they are essential. I thrive on those precious moments when someone embraces you and the rest of the world melts away.

5. Food. Not just any food, either. Delicious, flavorful, exciting food. One of my very favorite things in the world is dining out with friends. I love searching the menu and finding the one item whose description alone makes my mouth salivate. I love the comfort I can find in tucking into some fantastic meal that has been prepared just for me, and the satisfaction of a full tummy and a full spirit, that can only be brought after a meal shared with those I love.

6. Laughter. I have a different laugh for every different mood. From a flirty giggle to a deep, toss-your-head-back-and-open-your-soul eruption, I firmly believe that laughter is one of the most beautifully contagious gifts God has given us.

So now I challenge you: what are your primary reinforcers? What is essential for you to live?


Vanessa's Dad said…
Existing seems like a medical definition of the organism being viable. Living is more the human realm. Just getting by or living life to the fullest is a day to day, moment by moment thing. And yet we form habits of living that can be wonderful or not so wonderful. Joyful or not so. I choose Joy.

Then there is the world of Being, which is related to physical living, but so very much more. I can exist AND live, and still miss what is important. Living and being in the moment is necesary to notice and experience Joy.

I like that you want and need affection, hugs. I like that you appreciate food, especially food made for you, and how wonderful when food is made for you with love. :) We have much for which to be thankful.
Oh I wish you had time to write more. I love reading it!