Tombstone

“The 7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen R. Covey is my most favorite book of all times.  The reason I like the book is not because of the techniques and habits that it taught me. I like it because the book is filled with timeless wisdoms, and it taught me the concept of paradigms: how people with all good intentions can look at the same situation and see completely different things based on their paradigms. Because of this lesson, whenever I get into a disagreement with someone or sense a negative emotion within me, I begin to ask: is there a different paradigm that I don’t see? How can I see the problem in a different light?

One of the timeless principles or passages in the book that I kept coming back to again and again is this:

When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the griefs of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow: when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates on the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be Contemporaries, and make our appearance together.  Joseph Addison

We all know that our time here on earth is limited, at most 100 or so years. And, yet we often behave like this life is the eternity. We have the urge to get it all, and win all, sometimes even at the expense of others. I have seen it in professional settings, where one person put down another just to prove he is the smartest and knows it all, or to prove that he has the power over others. I have seen it in the community where a husband slaps a restraining order against his ex-wife simply to prove to her that he can take away her freedom to see her kids, even if the restraining order is just a temporary means. I have read it in history where thousands of beings were sent into prisons/camps just because they were deemed to belong to a lesser race.

The need to prove ourselves, to be put on a pedestal, and be on top of the world … is it really that important, considering the passage above by Addison? Please know that even the greatest mighty of all will eventually be buried under a tombstone without being able to take anything with him down the grave. The only thing that he left behind would be his legacy, would be how he is remembered by his family, his friends, his community and best of all how he is judged by his contribution to others. The questions one must ask oneself are: Did I leave a positive footprint? Did I make this a better world and advance the well beings of mankind or of the others around me? Am I adding to or subtracting from others? 

With this thought, I’d like to leave you with another passage that I deeply in love with from the Dalai Lama:

We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true meaning of life.– Dalai Lama XIV

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