“Human vitality is so exuberant that in the sorriest desert it still finds a pretext for glowing and trembling” (José Ortega y Gasset).
IT’S EASY TO ADMIRE THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE GREAT “VITALITY.” It is an attractive quality. Coming from the Latin vita (“life”), vitality is the trait of those who, whether young or old, seem to have more life about them. They bubble with a liveliness that is exciting to watch. We appreciate their spirit and their spunk.
But vitality is not only admirable; it is powerful. Those who have vitality are more productive, obviously, but their work also tends to be of a higher quality. Indeed, it is nothing short of astonishing to think about what has been accomplished by vitality. When they have been truly “alive” to their work, human beings have written breathtaking symphonies and invented life-changing innovations and shown death-defying heroism. Vitality is a potent form of leverage.
But it is especially in our relationships that we need to value vitality. We bestow great honor upon others when we present ourselves to them as individuals who are fresh and full of life. “I love you” comes through loud and clear when we live life fully. “It is our uniqueness that gives freshness and vitality to a relationship” (James C. Dobson).
The work that people do in the world is as varied as the people who do it. But whatever it is that we do, most of us could do it more energetically and with more vitality. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is this wise statement: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” We may fail or fall short (and the bigger our goals, the more often that will happen), but we can at least give our best effort.
Each day tests us with questions like these: How much vitality do we possess? How alive are we? How much energy can we put into our projects? Clearly, we need as much vitality as we can muster if we are to do work that is worth doing. But vitality is not a matter of genetic makeup or environmental circumstances; it’s a matter of character. And if it’s a matter of character, then it’s a matter of choice. So let us choose to work with passion and energy. And when we fail or fall short, let us have enough vitality to get up and get going once again.
“Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist but in the ability to start over” (F. Scott Fitzgerald).