The hard part is keeping it

What do you value most in life? What thing or things enrich your life to an extent you might not even realise? What are you doing to keep those beautiful and invaluable things in your life?

“Remember the first time you came out to the house? You said you wanted a spot like mine. But remember, anybody can get it. The hard part is keepin’ it, motherfucker.”

This is Dr Dre, from a brief spoken interlude in Wesley’s Theory, the opening track from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 hip hop masterpiece album To Pimp a Butterfly.* Dr Dre’s concerns might be somewhat materialistic here. But he makes a strong point.

It is not inevitable that the things that you most value or that most enrich your life will always be there for you. At any moment, they might vanish or be taken from you or destroyed.

What do you value most in life? The thing or things that most enrich your life might not be material objects. Good health is a blessing that not everyone appreciates while they have it (if they are fortunate enough to be in good health in the first place). For example, as I have recently learnt, good mental health is not a thing that should be taken for granted.

What are you doing to keep those beautiful and invaluable things in your life (whether they are intangible or otherwise)?

This normal life

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Everything that you currently consider yours will at some point no longer be yours. For one reason or another. But you can do whatever is in your power to hold on to them.

The war in Ukraine – as with all wars – shows us exactly what is at stake in this world.*** Our ways of life are not set in stone. They are not inevitable. Everything and everyone can and at some point will change.

The way that the world is right now is not the natural order of things. It is not inevitable. It never has been. And it never will be.

I started on this train of thought while listening to an interview with Conservative politician Tom Tugendhat****, from a March 2022 episode of Matt Forde’s excellent podcast The Political Party.  As Forde notes, Tugendhat’s words “went viral” in 2021, when he made his impassioned and compelling speech on the US and the UK deciding to withdraw from Afghanistan.***** Forde asks Tugendhat for his views on the consequences of that decision. Tugendhat says that it has resulted in the collapse of order and of society in Afghanistan:

“You see that the reality of what goes wrong if your society fails is that you have foreign armies going through your daughter’s cupboards. That’s pretty bleak. I don’t think we’ve taken this quite as seriously in recent years. You don’t have large armies because you want to invade people. You have large armies because the cost of defeat is so staggeringly large that it is worth paying a very, very high price to avoid it.”

Not working hard to keep something will always have consequences. More likely sooner than later. Tugendhat argues that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan helped embolden Vladimir Putin in deciding to invade Ukraine in February 2022. For Tugendhat, all this is a compelling reminder that our ways of life and the freedoms that we value are not eternal or inevitable:

“It’s quite striking that we treat ourselves as though life – this normal life – is what happens if you don’t touch it. Actually, this normal life is what happens when you work hard to keep it.”

Whatever your views on national defence budgets, Tugendhat’s words also speak to the universal truth that nothing in our way of life is inevitable. Therefore, none of the gifts that we enjoy should be taken for granted.

The good news

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You are born with the greatest gift , that of life itself. Life may or may not favour you with other wonderful gifts. Or you may strive to achieve all that you want and need for yourself and for others. You may or may not succeed in this.

There may be gifts of which you are unaware until you can no longer rely on them. Love, health, happiness, family and friendship are all beautiful and invaluable gifts for those with the good fortune to have them.

What do you value most in life?

This normal life is to be cherished.  But none of this is inevitable. None of this is the natural order of things. None of this will necessarily even be here tomorrow.

The good news is that you have the opportunity to do all that is in your power to try to keep what or whom you most value  in life, and to deepen and enrich your relationship to them. You can cherish all that is special in this normal life, right now. You can tell the people that mean the most to you what they truly mean to you. You can tell them today.

Everybody has something beautiful and invaluable in their life, whether they realise this or not.

The hard part is keeping it, gentle reader.

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.

FOOTNOTES

* Here is Wesley’s Theory, a track definitely best experienced as the opening to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album.

*** Please consider making a donation to the Disasters Emergerncy Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal campaign.

**** I may not or may care for Mr Tugendhat’s political affiliations, just as you may or may not. But whether or not his political leanings, he is a fascinating, intelligent and compelling speaker. We should all of us be willing to listen to a wide and diverse range of voices at all times and on all subjects.

***** Here is Tom Tugendhat’s speech on the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

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