The Life-River Theory | Teen Ink

The Life-River Theory

October 10, 2021
By Ulleehn GOLD, Lititz, Pennsylvania
Ulleehn GOLD, Lititz, Pennsylvania
13 articles 8 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. " — J. K. Rowling

It’s eleven thirty in the evening, and I’m sitting in front of my desk, thinking of how to open this paper. It’s almost midnight, and I’m doubting whether I should continue. Though the paper will be graded, what’s the point of earning a straight A or whatever? Probably it’s because universities will value it, and if I can attend a good university, it will be more likely for me to secure a better job and live a better life. But then, why do I have to lead a good life, or even why does a life matter?
Indeed everyone along with everything he or she has will vanish as he or she dies, be it good or evil, smooth or struggling, easily or hard earned. Still doubtful about what I’m doing now though, back to reality I’m still working on my paper. It’s similar to everyone else who is now experiencing, struggling through, or dedicated to his or her life. But no matter what there must be some meaning behind our actions because it’s apparent that we can choose to do nothing now that everything disappears as we depart from the world. But truth is we are right here going through different life circumstances. So, there must be some reason that we are doing what we are doing, and I believe the reason is defined by ourselves only; it must be not our fate that determines what we need or need not do; and it must be love that drives us to care for ourselves and our surroundings. So, just let happiness radiate through us, both internal and external.
Our fate is predetermined and so even though we try our utmost to keep everything on track, we do embrace unexpected life situations, and such unexpectedness worsens and turns into misery faced by us. We can’t ensure we are born without any defect; we can’t predict what will happen today; we have no idea whether our flight will land safely; and we can never determine whether it rains or shines. Undeniably something is doomed since it’s predetermined and beyond our control. And these predeterminations, unfortunate or unpredictable, sometimes come out of nowhere.
Now that predetermined life events happen, we need to learn to control their aftermath. We can turn negativity into positivity so that we will be less harmed. We can rectify our misbehaviors in order to reduce chances of misfortunes this time or next time. A well-known figure whose life blooms from the thorns is Helen Keller. Ms. Keller suffered from a severe illness at nineteen-month-old, unable to hear and to see throughout her life. She definitely has no control over her disease as well as its irreversible consequences. But courage favors her. She began to learn talking, reading, and writing despite her blindness and deafness. Her such unique life experience was condensed into her own philosophies tackling life’s misery. She’s one of the best examples that predetermined misadventures cannot fail humans. And I believe we all can act like Ms. Keller to lessen predetermined sufferings by finding our innate passion for life, and then we can rise from the ashes stronger. Predeterminations pain us while they favor us, temper us, and nurture us to be either a more tolerant, persistent, fearless, or self-disciplined human being. We exert all our strength, or even our life to remove obstacles arising out of the predetermined parts of our life and make benign outcomes out of them.
After figuring out what a predetermination is and how to gain strength to avoid unfavorable outcomes from it, it’s paramount for us to consider our roles in our surroundings. We may often ask ourselves what contributions we can make to our family, school, community, society, and world, how we can influence them positively, and to what extent our actions can benefit them. Essentially, the second layer of the meaning of life is to create a greater good, which is the principle of Aristotle’s Aristotelianism. But first of all, we need to clarify what the greater good is or what exactly we are endeavoring to achieve. As Aristotle puts it, “If there is only one final end, this will be what we are seeking, and if there are more than one, the most final of these will be what we are seeking.” Let’s plug his definition in the medical field. Apparently, many achievements in this area, including the discovery of a new type of medicine, creation of an effective vaccine, or invention of even more powerful medical machines, are all beneficial, but are they the final end of what doctors are seeking? The answer is no. Doctors work hard to accomplish what I just listed for the sake of the health of everyone else in the world. Hence, maintaining the world to be healthy is the final outcome anticipated by doctors and, according to Aristotle, is what really can be termed as a greater good. Overall, this good we try to create for someone beyond ourselves should be not only good but also the final purpose of all the other goods.
Although Aristotle’s view of the existentialism of life fits in with the mission of doctors, it is not well suited for the following scenario: suppose there’s a citizen who has noticed a problem within the government system, he wants to alert the government and then he does make it through a protest. In this case, the good the citizen strives for is to draw the government’s attention on the mistake it has made and is thus helpful to remedy the government. But the approach towards accomplishing this good is not good itself. Obviously, his public outrage disturbs the masses’ life. So what if what we deem good is instead bad or harmful to the public? Will it still be considered good? Aristotle, in my opinion, doesn’t give an answer. All he says is that good is the final purpose of our deeds.
One possible way to surpass the blind spot of Aristotelianism is basing our behaviors on love to all. Back to the scenario illustrated above, if the protesting citizen loves not only the government but also the surrounding residents, he will be likely to find a more peaceful way to make the good he expects, ensuring that not only the good is good but also the steps to do it are not bad as well. Then, the dilemma will be resolved.
Now, focus on the solution – loving all. Is it realistic? For the word “all,” it can be interpreted from multiple angles. Within the “all,” there’s someone we are familiar with, someone we’ve never encountered, someone who loves us, someone who hurts us, somewhere we live in, somewhere we are unable to reach, something we were taught with, something so profound that we have merely touched the surface of, and so on. It is unimaginable of how many elements being part of the “all,” and even more unimaginable of loving all of the “all.” Take a simple example, are we able to love someone who hurts us? Thinking about someone who once denounced us publicly, isolated us from our friends, stole our money, or beat us, are we still able to forgive and greet them politely, and seem instead encouraged whenever we’re face to face? I guess it’s no. So, in short, Aristotelianism’s basis that we can and must love all – every existence other than ourselves is impractical.
Now that we aren’t equipped with the ability to love all, then what defines what we should love? I think this will be an egotistical question and we can’t find any answer from Aristotle’s theories. According to Ayn Rand, “My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.” Speaking of what worth our love, according to Ayn, it’s what we want to love and what brings us happiness as happiness dominates everything – the end, goal, and purpose of our behaviors. As we love those outside of ourselves, we do need to consider our feelings, wants, needs, and desires. If we feel uncomfortable with someone, some places, or some situations, it’s understandable to not pressure ourselves to do so. While we make others happy out of love, make sure that we first of all feel happy ourselves. While we love others, loving ourselves is also important. Loving ourselves means we recognize our capabilities, even after knowing that we’re unable to live a good life on our own, to see our prettiness, to be under the cover of cuts and bruises left by predetermined adversities, to sometimes allow our caprice, or to be confronted with what troubles us, and even after all of these, we still appreciate each and every decision we’ve made, every action we’ve engaged in, and every thought we are to formulate.
From what I just wrote above, obviously, our life is complicated. Life is like a river with the flowing of time, people, and circumstances. Sometimes the river is tranquil, passing through its usual path, but suddenly, storms arrive. The water surges, rushes towards banks, and floods the nearby. Gloomy clouds shroud upon the river, making the water seem black. The black water rises high, clamoring to the sky, competing with the storm to see which is more influential. With the joining of new forces from the rain, eventually, the river wins. The storm concedes and leaves. Now, the sky is blue again with gentle winds passing by. Due to the rain, more water is added to the river that it is pushed to continue flowing forward. The river then flows, flows, and flows until it meets an ocean. Part of it joins the ocean, supplying the ocean with its strength. Part of it follows a divergent path that goes through the terrestrial land. More and more water flows through, accumulates, and forms its own lakes. Although one day, other newly emerged and vigorous bodies of water will come and occupy the river, the oceans it’s joined and the lakes formed by it are always there.
We tend to fear our departure from everything we’ve done and so we doubt the purpose of going through life’s journey doing what we are doing. Like the river, itself may be overlapped by other young rivers, but the evidence of its existence – the oceans and the lakes – ever remains. So, life is not meaningless because not every part of it will disappear, and the meaning is that we act to make positivity out of predetermined negativity of life, to love and make contributions to someone or something beyond ourselves out of happiness and self-love. Maybe fifty years from now, I, the author of this paper, will no longer exist, but the paper itself will be stored forever on my computer and in the memory of all of you who now read to the end.

The author's comments:

Life is complicated, but at the same time, it can be as simple as the flow of rivers.

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