“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death” (Jean Anouilh).
LIFE CALLS US TO MAKE A DECISION: WILL WE PARTICIPATE IN IT OR MERELY OBSERVE? Will we take part in the great drama or be content to sit among the spectators? Quite a lot depends on our decision. If we choose to be active in the living of life, good things are more than likely to happen. If, on the other hand, we decide to remain passive and uninvolved, it’s less likely that we’ll enjoy life’s goodness.
Whether we’ve studied philosophy or not, most of us understand the difference between “subjective” and “objective.” Subjective things have to do with ourselves and the life that’s “inside” us, while objective things are those that have their existence “outside” of us. Regarding the objective world, Paul Goodman has said this, “It is by losing himself in the objective, in inquiry, creation, and craft, that a man becomes something.” Outside of our own minds and experience there lies a marvelous world to engage, to inquire after, and to be involved with. And we aren’t really living a human life if we’re not participating.
Going back to the analogy of life as a drama or play, isn’t it true that each of us has some part, some role to play in the story? Surely we do, and the world loses some degree of goodness every time we back away from playing the part we’re uniquely equipped to play.
Does participating require more effort than being an observer? Yes, it does. Does it involve more risk? Without a doubt. That’s why, as Jean Anouilh said, “It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death.” But who wants death? It’s worth whatever it takes to overcome our inertia, break the bonds of gravity, and say yes to . . . life!
The word “life” can be used in many different ways, and there is a sense in which the laziest, most passive person in the world is still “living.” But in a greater sense, that person is not really living; he or she is doing no more than “being lived.” And in the end, that kind of life has in it more to regret than to rejoice about.
“The notion of looking on at life has always been hateful to me. What am I if I am not a participant? In order to be, I must participate” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).