At the end of the heart wrenching WW2 movie, Saving Private Ryan, Ryan visits the American cemetery in Normandy with his family. Looking at the grave of the man who died saving his life, he pleads with his wife, “Tell me that I’ve lived a good life. Tell me that I’m a good man.”
The good is the ethical. The true is reason and science. The beautiful is art and self expression. The most fulfilling life will blend all three; where your passion matches your skill and the needs around you in a perfect storm of goodness. I will break these down to show the importance. First, the true.
The true is all that you can measure and quantify, like wealth, college degrees and professional pedigree. Like many eulogies I’ve heard and given, we tend to measure peoples’ lives by what they’ve achieved; jobs they’ve held, places they’ve traveled etc. These are all good and worthy, but……
Even if you can logically measure all the achievements of your life (the true), this may not be fulfilling (beautiful) and it may not make a difference in the world (good).
Lau Tzu wrote in the Tao te Ching,
The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.
This distinction matters because sometimes fine sounding truth lacks heart and beaming tributes hide the reality of disappointment. A resume of life achievements that lacks heart or depth is not worth the paper it’s written on.
As the old country song says,
Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old
A friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold
The wealthiest person Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind
I personally love the Jeff Buckley version of this song because he recorded it just before he tragically died. Life is so fleeting. When your time comes and your life flashes before your eyes, make sure it’s worth watching. Make choices now that you can be proud of, choices that blend truth with goodness and beauty.
Abe Lincoln said,
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.