Saturday, April 20, 2024
Speak Your MindFinding equilibrium in an age-old dilemma

Finding equilibrium in an age-old dilemma

Considerable discussion has been devoted to defining life’s meaning or purpose. For many, having aspirational goals provides direction and incentive. However, does an incessant focus on distant objectives necessarily equate to a satisfying existence, or come at the expense of cherishing each moment? Many believe a person needs a long-term goal or objective to live. Without a purpose, what reason is there to continue moving forward, the thinking goes. But is this perspective always accurate? Could finding fulfillment come from fully embracing each present moment, rather than relentless pursuit of some distant dream?

When discussing “purpose,” the reference is often to objectives requiring sustained effort over many years to achieve – like amassing wealth, raising a family, or advancing a career. For some, material gain provides motivation. Others find meaning through supporting loved ones or causes. Yet what these share is their long-term orientation.

Citizens in Ethiopia and elsewhere currently face inflationary pressures and economic unpredictability as cost of living rises. Understandably, those with resources seek to preserve wealth through real estate and other investments. Leaving savings in the bank has become a risky option as currency value goes down.

Those able to invest prudently see opportunity to safeguard against potential hard times ahead. Loans facilitate property and asset purchases aimed at preserving wealth. However, such strategies naturally demand intensive work just to maintain financial security. An exclusive emphasis on amassing assets for an uncertain future often comes at the cost of time with loved ones. Valuable hours are spent earning and accumulating resources for a speculative tomorrow, rather than engaging with family and community in the present. Must the future necessarily monopolize our present?

One of the most striking sights in Addis Ababa is the constant crowds at the city’s “segabets” – traditional restaurants specialized in meat dishes. No matter the day or time, these establishments seem perpetually busy serving customers.

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Yet meat prices in Ethiopia have risen dramatically in recent years, placing the weekly protein budget of even middle-class families under strain. So how do they maintain such busy patronage when their prices far surpass standard butcher shops? The sole reason I can discern is that, for many Addis residents, this meals embody one of life’s few affordable indulgences.

With property, vehicles and investments unattainable luxuries for most, savoring high-quality cuts of lamb or beef offers a rare treat. It represents an affordable way to enjoy hard-earned money in the present rather than defer gratification to an uncertain future.

I cannot fault those who prioritize today’s fulfillment when tomorrow feels so uncertain. With limited earnings and few savings options, focusing on life’s small pleasures like vibrant social scenes or tasty meals understandably brings peace of mind.

While understandable, this tendency towards immediate gratification risks sacrifice of future stability. Heavy current consumption leaves little room for precautionary savings or building long-term assets. Those focused on delayed returns through education, career advancement or business investment take a different view, trading moments of enjoyment today for hoped-for rewards down the line. But sacrificing all life’s enjoyments now for distant rewards carries its own challenges.

Facing these opposing philosophies leaves one in a quandary. As with many dilemmas, balance may offer the best approach: balance between today’s fulfillment and tomorrow’s prudence merits consideration.

So when presented with prioritizing either today or tomorrow, which path seems best? Personally, I appreciate life’s moments as they come. But perpetual focus on the present alone discounts tomorrow’s unknowns, which can just as easily hold surprises worth preparing for. A never ending dilemma.

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