An old Taoist parable describes a certain type of person.
There was a man who disliked seeing his footprints and his shadow. He decided to escape from them, and began to run. But as he ran along, more footprints appeared, while his shadow easily kept up with him. Thinking he was going too slowly, he ran faster and faster without stopping, until he finally collapsed from exhaustion and died.
If he had stood still, there would have been no footprints. If he had rested in the shade, his shadow would have disappeared.
I recently read a book called the Tao of Pooh. Benjamin Hoff describes this person in a chapter entitled Bisy Backson. “The Bisy Backson is always going somewhere, somewhere he hasn’t been. Anywhere but where he is.” Where is he going? Perhaps he is looking for something? But what is it that he’s looking for? Perhaps a reward is his destination, some grandiose prize as payment for all his efforts. “Whether it’s up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite, it’s somewhere always farther along than we are-just down the road, on the other side of the world, past the moon, beyond the stars…” They are always working, but not enjoying. They live for what comes next; failing to observe what is already there. They live for tomorrow and fail to take pleasure in today. Professor Harold Hill in Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, warned, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”
Is life’s purpose to attain eternal life? What does that mean? Is our purpose right now to get ahead in temporal affairs? Is it to get a job and accumulate capital? In my observations and during my times of self-reflection I have noticed that the greatest joys in life don’t come from destinations, but on the pathways that lead to them. Life is all about the process. Even the afterlife is a journey, to live and progress. God himself is still enjoying the process as he watches His children learn and grow. The point I am trying to get across is that we need to not let life pass us by looking forward to tomorrow. As a student it’s easy to think of how great it will be when I finally finish medical school and become a doctor. As a missionary sometimes you think of how great it will be when you finally know the language. When you work everyday you think of how great it will be when you’re able to retire. This is fine, except satisfaction never comes. There’s always going to be more to achieve, more words to know to perfect the language, more assets you can attain, more promotions available at work, etc. When I got home from my mission I remember thinking about how completely awesome the whole experience was and I wanted more than anything to go back, even just for a moment.
In April’s first presidency message there is a great story which illustrates these thoughts
Elder Monte J. Brough, formerly of the Seventy, tells of a summer at his childhood home in
, when he and his younger brother, Max, decided to build a tree house in a large tree in the backyard. They made plans for the most wonderful creation of their lives. They gathered building materials from all over the neighborhood and carried them up to a part of the tree where two branches provided an ideal location for the house. It was difficult, and they were anxious to complete their work. The vision of the finished tree house provided tremendous motivation for them to complete the project. Randolph, Utah
They worked all summer, and finally in the fall just before school began, their house was completed. Elder Brough said he will never forget the feelings of joy and satisfaction which were theirs when they finally were able to enjoy the fruit of their work. They sat in the tree house, looked around for a few minutes, climbed down from the tree—and never returned. The completed project, as wonderful as it was, could not hold their interest for even one day. In other words, the process of planning, gathering, building, and working—not the completed project—provided the enduring satisfaction and pleasure they had experienced.
Enjoy life today, enjoy the work, enjoy the study, and enjoy the experience!