Tom meets a friend, Dick, an acquaintance whom he hasn't spoken to for some time. “Haven't seen you around,” says Tom. “How are you doing?”
Dick gives a weak smile and answers, “Still alive, I guess.”
When nothing special is happening to someone, and nothing tragic has come upon him, he might sum up his life by saying: “Still alive.”
Today's society takes no notice of the profound significance of life. People regard a lifetime as a cycle that everyone goes through, whether he likes it or not. Why, then, should they break their heads trying to find out what life is all about? Many people defend this superficial approach by claiming that there is no real answer. Life just is, because it is.
They are mistaken! Man is a highly independent creature. He is willing to pay a high price to keep the reins of his life in his own hands. It is only natural that he weigh the matter in his mind, discuss it with others, and decide what life is all about.
Once he is aware of life's purpose, he is in a position to make a decision to work towards fulfilling this goal, not because he happened to be born, but because it is important to him to achieve his life goal. By doing so, he has put himself in the driver's seat, where he can make his own decisions about life. Rather than being alive because some outside force decided that he should be born and go through the seven stages of man, he will be in a position to choose life, of his own free will, because it offers him something worthwhile.
Let's try to analyze the matter.
In the classic Jewish text, the Chapters of the Fathers, Chapter 4:29, we find the following:
"...against your will, you live, and against your will, you will die." There seems to be a contradiction in these words. However, such is man. Both inclinations lie in his heart, side by side. We find people suffering extreme pain from a serious disease, but nonetheless, they are determined to fight their illness and not die. Man was fashioned with an inborn longing to link himself to eternity. There are various ways that people find expression for this ambition, some may try to come up with an invention bearing their name, others have a street, a library, or a public building named after them. Everyone hopes that at least his children and grandchildren will recall his name, and take pride in their memories of him.
Another expression of this longing is the desire to bring children into the world. It is a human instinct which is universal among all men.
Those who believe in Judaism know that man's existence does not come to an end when his body dies. The soul is immortal, and continues to exist, not here on earth, but in the realm of souls. Even those who deny belief in an after-world seek some way to perpetuate their memory in some way or other.
Deep within his heart, man senses that he is destined to live forever. Consequently, he will find true contentment only in eternal life. This is the reason that people build hospitals and museums on which their names are displayed in large gold letters. This is what motivates millionaires to establish charity funds which bear their family name, in hopes that, when they depart from this world, they will be leaving something of themselves behind which will outlive them.
We remain with our question: How does one attain eternal life?
We find an answer in a terse, enigmatic question and answer: "Is it your wish that you not die? Then die before you die."
How does one die before he dies? By being preoccupied with his body. If you wish your life to continue after your body has died, then introduce spirituality to your life while you are still alive in this world. This is the life which is eternal.
This fundamental change of attitude toward life is the key to overcoming our dread of the day of death. If we introduce spirituality into our lives, we will be living a life that lasts forever.