"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am not sure I quite agree with Emerson's definition of success.
When someone dies, how does one judge the sum of a life? When you read obituaries, there are usually lists of children and grandchildren left behind. There is often a recounting of jobs and positions held. But what does this tell us about the person that lived?
I have been writing and painting quite a bit lately. And there is always this voice in my head that says that my work is meaningless unless it is one day consolidated and sold to a public. I am a product of my society. I have been socialized to only find meaning in what can be commodified. And this is a source of great anguish for me. I like creating. I like painting. I like writing. I like taking photographs. If I leave this life with an apartment full of journals, canvasses and photographs that have never been shared with a greater public, will that mean my life was unsuccessful? Is there merit in the individual journey unwitnessed by others?
The reality is that most of our journey goes unwitnessed in this life. The greatest journey, the hero's journey, is taken within the mind, within the heart, and no one beyond the journeyer truly knows that experience. We can create art, write books, leave behind children and companies and 'redeemed social conditions' but what does it all mean? Is this what defines a life?
Is it not the living of the life that makes all the difference? And who can possibly judge that?