I recently met a philosophy professor who told the group I was with that on the first day of his introductory class he asks the question, "What is an excellent life?" The students offer up some ideas and comments which grow and evolve over the course of the semester as they study philosophy.
I have never studied philosophy. My thoughts come, rather, from a study of my own life. For me, it is an excellent life.
I have the most amazing life. I love it. I love everyday. It all comes down to a single realization I had some years ago, which I, shortly thereafter, forgot. I have only recently reawakened to this truth. I know who I am. I strive to live each day with intentionality, choosing those things which I know I will never regret, and seeking in each moment to be fully present to the reality of where I am. When I seek to live each moment fully, I have immense joy.
This renewed realization came to me around the same time that I discovered this little gem from Paul Duke concerning John 13:
"he [Jesus] knows that both his origin and his destination are God (v.3b). Such knowing is the ground of loving."
Jesus knows from where he's coming and to where he is departing. Both are God.
The same is true for me. As a Christian, my identity is found first and foremost in Christ. I am a child of God. As such, I come from God. In this life, I am on my way to returning to God. In a very real sense, I find my self (re)turning to God every single day for wisdom, guidance, comfort, joy, strength, but above all love.
Knowing where I am coming from and to where I am going is the ground of all loving--love for others and true, genuine love for myself. Genuine, authentic love is, I believe, the mark of an excellent life.
This is not to say that I am perfect at this. It is my daily experience that moments arise when I forget my origin and my destination--when the immediacy and the strength of my drives and desires overwhelm me. I forget the reality of where I come from and to where I am going. My immediate wants are all that matter. The ground shakes. I fall. I fail. More days than I care to admit I fail far more often than I succeed. I do not love others well; I forget to love myself.
So, I have taped to my front door a small note that I read everyday as I head off to work: Know that both your origin and your destination are God. Such knowledge is the ground of loving.
I know who I am. Far more importantly, I know whose I am. This knowledge is the ground of loving. This is a knowledge that can change the world.