Dustin Wax at the Stepcase Lifehack blog writes that his partner is going around asking people this question to fulfill an assignment for her psychology class:
I think there’s a resistance to answering a question like this honestly. Sure, being put on the spot and asked one of the most profound questions humanity has managed to come up with is probably not exactly conducive to thoughtful responses, either, but I doubt she’d get much better responses if she gave them a week to think about it.
On the one hand, it’s great that people are asking this question. On the other hand, it’s sad that it takes a psychology class to give the question a context in everyday conversation. At least Dustin is giving it some thought!
But it strikes me as a really important question. What does make life worth living? And I think the reason people answer in such unsatisfying ways is that we’ve grown so used to defining ourselves in terms of possessions – possessions that literally feel like extensions of our self – that it’s hard to think of even the people close to us in any way other than as possessions, as “objects” with certain qualities that make us happy. Or, more often, don’t.
Which is to say, they’re all “things” that are external to us, no matter how much a part of our life they feel like. I think any question of what makes life worth living has to start with an inward look at one’s self, not an outward look at the people and things one surrounds one’s self with.
Instead, I think we need to address the question with our own actions, the things we do that make life worth living. Verbs, not nouns.
In my last post I asked whether we are defined by what we do or what we are. Dustin adds a third option: defining oneself in terms of possessions.
- Do you think defining yourself in terms of what you do is any better than defining yourself in terms of possessions?
- Do you think Jesus thought of himself in terms of his stuff, his actions, or his identity?
- Given that we are commanded always to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), how would you answer this question if someone put you on the spot?