While cleaning my desk this weekend, I found a scraggy, old piece of paper.
Written on it was a quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, reading, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
For a moment, I took a little break, sunk deep into my rocking chair and thought about this quote.
Prior to this rare encounter, I had been glued to my TV, watching the news with an eye for a column topic.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about this quote and when, where and why I wrote this scribble. After hours of pondering, I was finally able to figure it out.
I had jotted the quote down seven years ago during a high school class.
My social studies instructor in Benin City, Nigeria, was having a hard time explaining to 30 curious minds how Nigeria and other developing countries had topped the list of the world’s happiest people.
A student had brought into class a study published in the United Kingdom’s “New Scientist” magazine that suggested the happiest people in the world lived in Nigeria.
After trying and failing to convince a fellow classmate of mine, a German national, who argued that there was no way on earth that a country with dilapidated social structures, poverty and corruption could be home to the happiest people on earth, my instructor delved into philosophical sayings as a last resort.
Although I remembered the origin of the note, one question was still left unanswered. Why have I carried this little piece of paper ever since?
Seven years later and thousands of miles from home, this tattered piece of paper was still with me.
Then I thought about times in life when I just wanted to crumble and surrender to the storms of life.
One particular occasion stuck out — losing my dad to a heart attack about five years ago.
Being as close as I was to my father and considering the pivotal economic role he played in the sustenance of my family, I continually found myself asking the question: What was there to live for?
But just before I sunk deep into depression, I was able to anchor onto something, a reason to live. I had my “why to live.”
And it was the father I had to become to my younger sisters, the source of joy I had to become for my mother, the promises I owed to my father and most importantly, the man I felt I was made to be by God.
Soon I found a way of finding happiness in guiding my sisters morally and tutoring them after school.
I realized the importance of giving my mom my opinions on family matters when she asked for them.
Boyhood had departed, and manhood came much earlier than expected. But I had to find the joys in my newfound responsibility.
As soon as I was able to figure this out, the “how” was a matter of continuous strife. But it didn’t matter because I was bent on being happy and fulfilling the “whys” of life.
After passing by the backpacks at the “Send Silence Packing” event organized by Active Minds at Marquette last week, it became clear to me that youths of our time must be able to pinpoint their reasons for living or else risk losing life itself.
A reason for living is a reason to be happy.
So this summer, as many of us venture into unknown territory, I recommend that everyone do a little philosophizing on what it is they live for.
What is your purpose? What faith do you hold on to when rationality fails? What are the things that keep you going on? What does this life mean to you?
Just don’t live — attach reasons to your life so that when life knocks you down, you can persevere.
Trust me, life’s curveballs are a given, so be prepared like a good batsman, for no one knows when the pitcher will throw one.
Food For Thought: A stern reason to live is the only assurance of living a fulfilled life.