Rosicrucian Writings Online

[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest July 1939]
LIFE is to live, not endure. It is a cause, concerning the end and purpose of which we can speculate, and to a great extent intuitively sense. Since life physiologically is animation, a motion of body and mind, we are conforming with its nature only when we use its power of self-action; that is, when we act and think. One who assiduously avoids intensive action of either body or mind, or both, is denying life its complete expression. Contrary to legends and romantic tales, no one has yet established proof that anyone has ever lived for centuries. The great of every age, even those of Herculean strength who had bodies that were towering symbols of health, met inevitable transition--the greater initiation that must come to all. Thus, since carefully planned methods intended to greatly lengthen an individual's life have resulted in adding but comparatively few years, one must judge whether the effort expended for those years, the denials required, the experiences forfeited, were too great a price to pay for the longer but stinted life.
We all admire those men and women who have reached an age in excess of three score and ten, and who still possess the youthful appearance and preservation of one considerably younger. Upon first consideration, such persons seem to be an incentive for science to continue its exhaustive research for the preservation and elongation of life. But again, mere age must not be the measuring rod for determining the value of long life; rather, this should be the extent to which it is lived. A large university in America has kept alive for matters of experimentation in its biology laboratory--carefully sealed in a special glass container, in ideal thermal conditions in a fluid of rare chemical properties--a chicken's heart for a period of nearly fifty years. The heart has all of the pulsations of the normal heart of a chicken. Let us presume that a human being with full possession of his faculties could be kept alive scientifically in like manner for centuries by being isolated from all external influences which ordinarily depreciate life, and by being prevented from those activities which eventually terminate life. How many men and women would care to add fifty or one hundred additional years to their lives under such conditions? It is not life, then, itself, that we all want, but what life may afford us in joyous moments, in opportunities for accomplishment, and in experiences which broaden the mind and satisfy the soul. A science that can add years to our lives without the sacrifice of the fullness of living would be accomplishing a truly worthy end. A science that says we must ease our pace greatly, that we must refrain from pouring our mental and physical energy into things that are far more important to us than a few added years of passive existence, is wrongly evaluating life.
Again we must say, life is to live, not to endure. Is there anywhere an inventor, an artist, a writer, a business man or woman with high ideals and a worthy project, who would not gladly give ten years of later life, of a life of inactivity, so that now, while he or she can, they may enjoy intensely their powers of accomplishment and the exercise of their abilities? What man or woman would deny himself or herself present minutes, golden minutes of varied experiences, of great activity, and of living to the fullest in accordance with moral and ethical laws, for the later years of a comparative inertia? True living begins with accomplishment, the planning and execution of a plan that permits tasting and experiencing life, that makes for the cramming of the human consciousness with impressions from which stimulating ideas may come. The one who will only wade into the sea may be safe from possible undercurrents and the danger of drowning, but he will never know the thrill of swimming, of mastering even to a small degree that element of nature. The one who stays securely upon the ground and depends solely upon his own legs for locomotion, may never risk being thrown from a horse but neither will he ever know the rush of wind in his face and the exhilaration of being propelled at a speed beyond his own physical abilities.
Those who continually seek safety at the sacrifice of having varied human experiences, who decline to wrestle with the forces of nature for fear that they may be compelled to draw upon the energy required for a longer life, have gained what by their caution and frugality? The reward of old age? What are these joys of old age, that they are so highly praised by men? In the decline of life, our powers of perception are weakened, our ability to experience the new is limited, for our capacity of enlarging our knowledge either by actual participation in events or by reading what others have done or are doing is restricted. In old age we cannot live in the world of imagination, as when we were in our youth, for imagination affords its greatest satisfaction only to those who do not know the fallacy of much of that which they imagine, and to those who still have ahead of them years in which to materialize their dreams. The future for those who are aged has narrowed down to the now. The aged are left with but their memories. One, therefore, who has lived a full life, who has wasted no conscious moments, who has accepted the gauntlet thrown down by existence itself, who has explored himself and the world in which he has lived, who has not let any man or group of men limit his thought or his inquiries, will have a large library of volumes of thought, of memory impressions which he can call upon and relive hourly with great pleasure and joy. If he has had a sheltered existence, led a passive life, pampered the life force within himself, and has frequently withdrawn from contests with life so as not to bear any of its bruises, he will have missed many glorious adventures. The events which he can recall with great emotional gratification, will be limited to the number he can count upon his fingers. Each day of the later life he was so careful to preserve will become a dreaded monotonous existence, unable to provide the joy of experiences or the stimulus of cherished memories.
Life is to live, it is not to waste. For example, one who uses to the fullest extent his faculty of hearing is the one who seeks the harmony of sound, who attempts at every opportunity to have sounds and their combinations poured into his ears so that they will enlarge his conception of the world of reality and keep vibrant his emotional self. He will not, however, to show his independence, expose his eardrums to crashing sounds which may rob him forever of his sense of hearing. The one who lives boldly must therefore live intelligently. He will not hold back life nor niggardly use it, but neither will he cast it away. Today must be lived--each hour for what it will afford, for living is consciousness, and consciousness is experience. Tomorrow may offer what today cannot, therefore, life must not all be spent at one time. One can, if there is nothing from which he will refrain and he does not act contrary to conscience and divine Cosmic laws, live a century, yes, even two centuries of experience, within the ordinary normal span of years allotted us by the decrees of nature. It is far better to say, at the close of life, "I have lived," than merely, "I am ninety."

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