An Investigation Into Living Fully
Live life to the fullest.
It’s a common phrase. It’s hard to go for very long without hearing it or something that shares the sentiment.
One of the most famous versions of this idea was published in 1854:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
So we know and love the idea. But what does it mean to live life to the fullest?
We know what it doesn’t mean. It’s not sitting in the couch, watching TV. It’s not checking email or being bored. For most people, it’s not their job. That’s the easy part. But what does it mean?
For Thoreau it was living Spartan-like on Walden Pond.
For others it might include traveling around the world. Perhaps it’s seeking adventures like rock climbing or hang gliding. Or learning how to speak Italian or play the guitar.
Maybe that means helping others, volunteering at a shelter or raising funds for a charity.
I’m still not exactly sure what it means for me. So far in my life, it’s always meant making stuff.
To this point in my life, I’ve created:
- two books (one novel and one personal essay collection)
- five short films
- a cookbook
- a youtube series
- a podcast
- two blogs: personal and family
- two albums in a high school band
- a twitter account where I pretend to be a comedian
- a restaurant concept with full menu
- two web riddles
- a side business designing book covers
- and now this site, whatever this is
All of them (except for the cookbook) are available to the public on the internet. Everything (except for the book cover business) has basically made no money. The books are the only things that aren’t free, and no one buys them anyways.
So I’ve made all these things. What does it get me? Have I really lived life more than someone who hasn’t created things like this?
No, I don’t think so. But I also don’t know how else for me to live to the fullest.
So what does it mean? I think it’s easy to look at someone like Leonardo da Vinci and say he really lived to the fullest. He was many things and is well-known for his inventions and art. Even if we focus only on his paintings, I think most people would say he contributed to society and lived fully.
But what if we imagine someone living at the same time as Leonardo, let’s call him Reonardo da Pinci. Say he made the exact same paintings and sculptures and inventions, but he didn’t have any connections (or maybe he’s just shy) and so all of his works stayed in his basement and never saw the light of day. Did Reonardo live as full as Leonardo?
It seems that yes, if they did the same things, they lived equally full lives. The difference is that outside observers know that Leonardo did, while not knowing that Reonardo did. So for me, I think it’s about what you do, not about who sees it.
So I’ve been going on and on and don’t know that I’ve managed to get to the point yet.
What should I do to get the most out of the rest of my life?
I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I could learn new skills (learning Italian and the guitar were former goals of mine). I can do things that I’ve never done before, like a Tough Mudder course or skydiving. I can continue traveling as often as possible.
One of my goals is to leave the world a more interesting place than I found it. On first blush it seems unattainable, to affect the world in such a way. But there’s a way to interpret it that almost anyone would qualify: if a person creates anything that is interesting, from a restaurant to a blog post, then they effectively have made the world more interesting.
So who knows? Maybe something with photography. Perhaps I’ll build a board game or design a frisbee golf course. Odds are, it’ll probably involve making something.