I was watching Gladiator - you know the blockbuster where the Roman General Maximus goes through hell when he doesn't accept the position of Emporer of Rome. His family is murdered, he is sold as a slave and forced to be a gladiator. He becomes an unwilling paid assasin. Watching the sunset with a fellow gladiator, he speaks of his wife and son who have are waiting for him the afterlife. It is clear that his positive reason for living is gone. His only drive, and what keeps him alive, is his desire for revenge on Commodius, the man who betrayed him, ordered his family murdered and stole his position of power.

Watching the sunset scene, realizing that Maximus' real reason for living was gone, a question popped into my mind. "What are you living for?" A reasonable question to be sure. What am I living for? An uncomfortable question too. What do I contribute to this world? Why should I be granted the gift of life? What am I contributing to make this a better world?

Unbid, a vivid scene began playing in my mind. In front of me, behind a large, raised platform much like a judge's bench in a modern courtroom sat a committee. The committee listened as a line of people came in one by one and spoke to them. I listened closely. The people who walked through were telling the committee what they did in their lives. They were explaining their value, their contribution to the world. I thought this strange. Why should a person have to tell someone else what they did with their life, what their contribution was? Is it not for each of us to live our lives as we see fit? What right has anyone to evaluate or even consider our contribution to the world?

But that was not the end of it. As I looked on, I realised this was not a simple enquiry. It was a matter of life and death. The committee's job was to decide who lived and who didn't. I'm not sure why - perhaps the world was overpopulated - but human life to continue on the earth the population had to be reduced. Those who were judged unfit by the committee would die.

To say that upset me a little would be a major understatement. I have to tell them what I do for a living and they judge whether its good enough or not? Who do they think they are? I'll do whatever I like thank you!

These lofty thoughts came crashing to the ground as the reality of the situation began to penetrate my indignation. There was no escape, there was way out. Guards at the door, no windows, no exit except passed the judge's bench.

At this point the vision left me and I came back to planet earth. What a relief! I don't have to justify my existence. I don't have to prove to anyone that my place on this earth is in any way productive or helpful to the human race or the harmonious survival of our planet. Or do I?

The question kept ringing in my ears, it wouldn't leave me alone: What are you contributing to the world? If You had to walk past that committee what would you have said? Why should you be here? What are you living for?

These questions put my life and actions in a sharp new perspective. The feverish pursuit of the new car, the million dollars, the flashy gadgets, the power, the fame all took on an uncharacteristic pallor. What value are they if I am not of value? How can money or fame or power or the admiration of anyone else add anything to me that I don't already have? If I don't already have a sense of value from the inside, if I am not doing what I know is right for me, if I am not expressing my highest ideals and authentic self, what use is a materail trinket as a temporary pedestal. All they will do is amplify the lie I am living.

Sobering thoughts aren't they? Or as a good friend was fond of saying, "Hard but fair!" Yes, very hard, but very fair.

However, these gruesome thoughts have changed my way of thinking and looking at life. I've gone from "What's in it for me?" to "How will what I do contribute to a better world? How can my life today send a ripple of harmony, upliftment, improvement or growth out into the world around me?" Surprisingly, this attitude adjustment has not caused existential anguish and late night gnashing of teeth. It has brought a calmness, a genuine sense of value and self-confidence to my universe. I am no longer gaining my value from the reflection of the outer world and its lights and symbols. I am now a free man. Free to do what is right for me, knowing it is right with the world.

I can think of nothing worse than lying on my deathbed looking back over my life and seeing that I failed to make the world a better place. Seeing that I let my fickle desires for the beads and babbles seduce me. At the end, we all want to look back and be proud of our lives.

Today is where that journey starts.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Drayton is an author, teacher and performance enhancement consultant in private practice. He combines his degree in Physics, world travels, intensive human potential training and 12 years of personal inquiry to turn the often intimidating task of understanding and controlling one's life into a fun game that is easy to understand and enjoy for all.His clients include national celebrities in sales training and financial independence,as well as a leading expert in sports psychology.

Paul has published articles in a number of national magazines, and recently published his controversial book "Blueprint:Change Your Life From the Inside Out"

For more free articles visit www.PaulDrayton.com