A few weeks ago, I was at the park in New York City and someone stole my stuff. They stole my bag, phone, wallet, keys and other things that I valued.
I'm sure you've felt this emptiness -- when something meaningful is taken from you and you don't know what to do. For a few minutes, I was in shock, not knowing which direction to go.
Once the initial feelings wore off, I started to look for explanations for why all this was taken from me. There had to be a bigger lesson and reason here, and not just to keep a harder eye on my belongings. After intense thought, the idea came to me that material things don't matter. They're nice to have, but at the end of the day they're just lifeless objects.
An interesting thing I've seen is called the "happiness plateau." It's when you buy something, and you are happy and excited for a few days, weeks or months. Eventually though, the excitement starts to sag, and this great thing you bought starts to get old. Your happiness dips, and you start to look toward the next thing you can buy or acquire. And the cycle continues.
Why are we on this earth as humans, with you reading these words right now? Why are you alive at this period in history, living in the city and environment you are in? I have no idea why. But the fact remains that we've been provided this human body and mind for a reason. And we've got about 80 years to figure it out and fulfill our purpose.
In the book Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac says, "Are we fallen angels who didn't want to believe that nothing is nothing and so were born to lose our loved ones and dear friends one by one and finally our own life, to see it proved?"
Why is it that so many people "find themselves" after they lose everything, or that they are happiest when they have nothing but their own souls?
Everything is eternal. Our souls are eternal, life is eternal, and the movement of the world is eternal. When you look at the stars, they are the same stars that the cavemen from 50,000 years ago were looking at. Once we're gone, the ocean will continue to move and the people around us will continue to be "very busy" for eternity.
I like to read obituaries. They are sad but compelling. These are people who spent their entire lives working hard, possessed of aspirations, ambitions and accomplishments and who are now finally relegated to a brief description and who they leave behind. Many people will read an obit, or even skip over it, and move onto the next thing in their own lives.
At the end of the day, I think it's how we treat other living beings that will give us the most fulfillment in this life. Not for the material items that we can brag about to our friends, but for the item we buy two of, so we can share it with our friend. Imagine buying a pair of shoes, telling your friend about it, then saying, "Oh, yeah, I bought you a pair, too." Wouldn't that feeling be better than the extra $50 you just spent?
To conclude, I realized that the eternity in our lives does not come with material goods. A known saying is, "You can't take it to the grave with you." It's true, but I don't think people actually focus on what that means. Material items are important to have, but once we hit a point, extra goods or things can't buy us meaning in our lives. We must embrace the emptiness when it occurs and find the lesson in it. Otherwise, we're going to keep experiencing that emptiness until that lesson is learned.