The Greatest Balance

When I went home a few months ago, I found a copy Soul Mountain at Chapters, which I had been look­ing for, ever since I found out about it. I’ve been read­ing as much as I can late­ly, when­ev­er I have the time and the ener­gy to con­cen­trate on what Gao Xingjian is try­ing to nar­rate to me.

The thing that makes the auto­bi­og­ra­phy inter­est­ing so far is that Xingjian was incor­rect­ly diag­nosed with fatal lung can­cer, and after prop­er review, had been giv­en a sec­ond chance on life. His out­look changes, and he begins to see every­thing around him very dif­fer­ent­ly.

I’ve late­ly felt that, although I’ve nev­er been threat­ened with any life-alter­ing inci­dents, I’ve begun to see things dif­fer­ent­ly as well. It’s as if I have noth­ing and every­thing to live for. That there would be no dif­fer­ence between dying tomor­row or in eight decades. It’s almost as if I’ve had my fair share of expe­ri­ences, each one as impor­tant as the oth­er in shap­ing who I am, good or bad, and that this is already suf­fi­cient for me to be sat­is­fied with my life. Perhaps I feel this is true when I com­pare the amount that I’ve already learned with the infi­nite amount that is impos­si­ble to learn. After all, what is the pur­pose of life any­way? For me, it is to con­tin­u­al­ly shape myself into a bet­ter per­son, whether it’s intel­li­gence, or a bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion of music, or dex­ter­i­ty, or any­thing. And since there is no absolute goal I have to reach (or can reach), there is no way for me to fail, and death hence­forth becomes mean­ing­less.

When I tried to explain this to some­one, he got con­fused, and thought that I was telling him about how I had expe­ri­enced all there is to expe­ri­ence already. This could­n’t be fur­ther from the truth. There are a pletho­ra of things I haven’t done, that I haven’t been through, and when­ev­er I’m giv­en the chance to actu­al­ly expe­ri­ence one of these things, I feel as if I’ve gained more out of life.

Instead of see­ing the act of liv­ing as cross­ing out items on a life-long “to do” list, I see it as writ­ing down items on a “have done” list.

The great­est dis­tinc­tion for me between these two world­views is that I can take my time in doing what I want, instead of feel­ing rushed to accom­plish as much as I can before I die. Seeing life this way has cer­tain­ly allowed me to be a much more relaxed, flex­i­ble, easy-going per­son, unin­hib­it­ed by the fear of death. The good thing about this is that I did­n’t have to fool myself into this view, sim­ply because I was unsat­is­fied with my life. Somehow, this mind­set shaped itself in my brain, and even­tu­al­ly man­i­fest­ed itself through my ever-con­tin­u­ing matu­ri­ty.

It has made life mean­ing­ful and mean­ing­less at the same time.

Leave a Reply