Potent Words: Surviving Versus Living

If you’re “making a living,” that’s a good thing, right? The bills (mostly) get paid on time, there’s food on the table, warm clothes for winter and a roof overhead. Maybe there are good schools for the kids and good health care for grandparents.

But what if you hate your job, are unhappy with the person you’ve become, dissatisfied with where you’ve ended up and long for change? Are you still “making a living”? And what does that mean, “living”? Isn’t it more like “surviving”?

Two words, meaning similar things, but with big differences.

“Survival” is when our basic needs for food and shelter are met and we have some sense of security. It’s the bare minimum required for a human being to exist. There is no thought beyond the moment you are going through right now, since the tasks associated with keeping yourself and your family fed and sheltered dominate your energy. They are so immediate that there is no room for anything else.

In survival mode, people stop listening to their hearts and the dreams that are carried there. Life becomes too busy, too full of necessaries until it is empty of everything else.

“Living” is what happens when we make time, even among the demands of basic needs, for hope, for grace, for things beyond the next meal. We truly live when we remember what our passion, our purpose in life is and pursue it, so that we get carried along on the universe’s stream, always moving closer to our dream.

In survival, there is just enough to make it through the day. In living, we have abundance, the faith that we have more than enough to see through to tomorrow and beyond.

All of us do both—survive and live. We all want to live, but it’s often very difficult to shift our outlook if we are surrounded on all sides by examples of survival and are constantly being given the message that dreaming is for kids and we’d better grow up and face reality and just do our job and stay in our places.

And yet, some of the happiest people are the poorest. Their physical circumstances are certainly challenging, but they don’t see them as a final destination. They are the ones who fiercely hold on to the belief that education will allow their children to rise above where they’re currently stationed in life. All they ask is for the chance to try.

In this light, simply surviving is no way to live.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Dreams, language, psychology, spirituality

2 Comments on “Potent Words: Surviving Versus Living”


  1. Great post.

    Why must “making a living” equal “making money?” It actually need not. We are simply conditioned to accept this so-called “reality.”

    The only work that will set you free is the work towards true self-awareness. All else is cogging it in one machine or another.

    At least, that’s what I came to see when I truly started to question my conditioned assumptions and certainties.

  2. halfnotes Says:

    Robert,

    Right you are. Money is not the only “requirement” for “living”. I’ve done enough “universal exchange” to know that, even if I don’t get reimbursed directly from the person I’m giving something to or doing something for, somewhere down the road I’ll receive something that will balance everything out.


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