Do not live a half life

People become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life

Aftab Ahmed Khanzada April 17, 2024
The writer is a senior analyst based in Hyderabad. He can be reached at


When Einstein would give lectures at American universities, the question students asked him the most was: “Do you believe in God?” And he always answered: “I believe in the God of Spinoza.”

According to Spinoza, God would say: “Stop praying. I want you to go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve made for you. Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you there was anything wrong with you or that you were a sinner, or that your sexuality was a bad thing. Sex is a gift I have given you and with which you can express your love, your ecstasy, your joy. So don’t blame me for everything that others made you believe. Stop asking me, ‘Will you tell me how to do my job?’ Stop being so scared of me. I do not judge you or criticize you, nor get angry or bothered. I am pure love. Stop asking for forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive. If I made you, I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies, and best of all, free will. Why would I blame you if you respond to something I put in you? How could I punish you for being the way you are, if I’m the one who made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who behave badly for the rest of eternity? What kind of god would do that? My beloved, this life is not a test, not a step on the way, not a rehearsal, not a prelude to paradise. This life is the only thing here and now — and it is all you need. I have set you absolutely free, no prizes or punishments, no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, and no one keeps a record. You are absolutely free to create in your life. It’s you who creates heaven or hell. Live as if there is nothing beyond this life, as if this is your only chance to enjoy, loving, to exist. Then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is an afterlife, rest assured that I won’t ask if you behaved right or wrong, I’ll ask, ‘Did you like it? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?’ Stop praising me. What kind of egomaniac God do you think I am? I’m bored with being praised. I’m tired of being thanked. Feeling grateful? Prove it by taking care of yourself, your health, your relationships, and the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me.”

Carl Jung writes: “People become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking.”

We are standing this very second at the meeting place of two eternities: the vast past that has endured forever, and the future that is plunging on to the last syllable of recorded time. We cannot possibly live in either of those eternities — no, not even for a split second. But, by trying to do so, we can wreck both our bodies and our minds. So let us be content to live the only time we can possibly live: from now until bedtime.

“Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall,” writes Robert Louis Stevenson. “Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down, and this is all that life really means. Every day is a new life to a wise man. Who do you suppose wrote this verse: Happy the man, and happy he alone, he, who can call today his own: he who, secure within, can say: ‘Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have lived to-day’.”

These words sound modern, don’t they? Yet they were written thirty years before Christ was born, by the Roman poet Horace.

One of the most tragic things we know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. Why are we such fools — such tragic fools? Do not live half a life and do not die a half death.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2024.

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