Seven Words to Live by
인생을 이끌어 줄 일곱 단어
by John W.Gardner
Suppose that you could offer one word of advice to a young person living in the year 2000. One word! What would it be?
Over the past few hears I have been asking this question of many friends, and the answers have been remarkably consistent. Three words are almost universally at the top of the list.
The most frequently mentioned word is "Live." It is a sound choice for the First Maxim. If you have in mind Schweitzer's "reverence for life," and a biologist's sense of the complexity and wonder of the life process. you will understand the breadth and depth of the word.
In Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, a young woman dies and discovers that she has the opportunity to live one day of her life over again. She chooses her twelfth birthday. When the day begins, her first reaction is an intense desire to savor every moment, "I can't look at everything hard enough," she says. Then, to her sorrow, she sees that the members of her family are not experiencing life with any intensity. In desperation she says to her mother, "Let's look at one another!" And later: "Oh, Earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?"
Most people waste life. The First Maxim says, "Live, be aware, experience, grow."
The second one-word maxim mentioned by almost everyone is "Love." People attach many different meanings to the word, and the Second Maxim means all kinds of love-fraternal, sexual, religious, humanistic. But it means above all the capacity to break through the barriers that cut one off from others and from values beyond the claims of self-to give and receive, to commit oneself, not childishly but in mature escape from the prison of self-absorption. It can happen at 18 or 80.
The Third Maxim is "Learn." We're brought up to think that learning is a "duty," and all too often school convinces us that it is a very dull duty. To clear your mind of such nonsense, watch a baby learning to walk. He tries, fails, tries again, improves, bumps his nose, cries, laughs and keeps on. He isn't being dutiful. He's simply doing what he was designed to do-learn.
Many people who suggested the Third Maxim were also saying: Learn who you are, learn to be at peace with yourself, learn the effect you have on others, open your mind to new experience. Learn! It's fun. It hurts. It changes us. And it keeps us "alive." When Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.-one of the great Surpreme Court justices-was 92, a friend came upon him reading in his library and asked, "What are you doing?" Justice Holmes smiled and said, "Improving my mind."
Live. Love. Learn. Any reader who checks with friends will find considerable agreement on these words. But ask for another choice and you will make a curious discovery: though most people arrive at the same first three maxims, agreement breaks down completely on the fourth. A devout young friend of mine says, "Believe!" A scientist says, "Seek!" A distinguished physician says, "Produce!" I found no consensus. 살아라.
Then a couple of years ago I was scheduled to deliver an after dinner speech to the American Philosophical Society, one of the most distinguished scholarly groups in the nation. I decided to put the question to the members and their wives. Where would one find a group of men and women better fitted to assist in the search?
The most popular choice of this group was "Think," although some of them preferred variations such as "Understand" or "Know." The next choice was "Give," and related words such as "Help," "Serve" and "Share." Then came "Laugh," along with "Smile," "Play" and "Enjoy."
Many people have asked what my own preference for the Forth Maxim would be. My choice is "Try." It's a homely word, and "Aspire," meaning "to try for something better," might seem more asequate. But it's hard to know that what you are striving for will actually turn out to be better. I'll stay with "Try."
Live, love, learn, think, give, laugh, try. Can you pack better advice into seven words?