Roger Scruton wrote a letter to James Harmon for his book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation From People Who Know a Thing or Two, and in his letter he discusses living a life that is meaningful. In a thought experiment Scruton asks the reader to imagine their death with one of two scenarios. In the first, you imagine that you have a lived a life full of instant pleasures, but you have not made a deep impact on the lives of others. In the second you have left a legacy not of instant pleasures, but of character and deeds that are treasured by those who were close to you. Scruton writes, “you will come to see that there are worse things than death, and that, in the end, death is not the most grievous of your losses. Far worse is to live too long, clinging to a life that has lost its enchantment.” This quote caps off the thought experiment, and leaves us at a place where we can consider exactly what the value of our lives should be.
This quote speaks to me about the importance of putting others first to develop meaningful relationships that will last longer than my life. Scruton is encouraging us to make difficult decisions that will lead others to trust us, feel more open and closer to us, and want to build meaningful relationships with us. I believe that this is the first step in living a life that is not monotonous and bland. By actively involving others in our lives, we will open new doors and possibilities for ourselves. In turn this will lead to building lives that remain interesting and exciting as we age.
At the end of his letter for James Harmon’s published collection of letters, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two, Joe Dallesandro leaves the reader with one final piece of advice, “If you have to be beautiful, then do beautiful things for someone other than yourself.” This quote shows an idea of personal sacrifice, a way of looking deep within ourselves, and thoughtfulness for others.
In this quote I really enjoy the idea of being beautiful in the ways in which you help other people. It becomes very easy in life to constantly think about yourself, and how each action you take is going to be beneficial for yourself. It is not too often that we think of how we can do something meaningful for others, and even rarer still that we think of how we can do something for another person without thinking of how it will come back to benefit us in the future. I know that one of my struggles involves the desire to do positive things like volunteer or donate to worthy causes without my motivation for those things being my own personal gain. When I donate to charity I know that I will have a personal feeling of satisfaction from being a good person and helping out. Times when I have sacrificed time to volunteer and assist with things have also had an underlying motivating factor of knowing that my volunteering could be a resume booster, or possibly help me network.
By trying to think of making personal sacrifices for the good of others in the frame that Dallesandro provides us, I think we can avoid having so many of the hangups I described earlier. When we focus on our own outward beauty and appearance we become more self absorbed, but if we try to be beautiful on the inside, and try to be beautiful through actions that are geared towards other people, then we create an attitude that is as much about serving others as ourselves.