Are You Living or Existing?

Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.
Street Art in Waterford City, Ireland.

This quote from Oscar Wilde is painted on an old wall on a hilly street near where I often park in Waterford City.

The first time I saw it, I only glimpsed the top two lines as there was a car blocking the rest of it. It certainly captured my attention and every single time I see it now, it stays with me for hours and hours.

I reckon there’s a lot of truth in it and I’m beginning to think that the ‘busy, busy, busy’ approach to life which is so dominant in our society is playing a huge role in dragging people away from living to existing.

I know that there are some people who are genuinely busy and I would count many working parents of three or four young kids as probably being among the most genuinely busy people out there.

For so many other people, it seems that ‘being busy’ has become the ‘in’ way to be. But what exactly are people so busy doing? Does spending hours on SM keeping inboxes under control count? Or what about rushing to the gym to fight obesity after days of driving from pillar to post and avoiding stairs?

Having seen that stark ‘mural’ again today, I wondered about all the ‘stuff’ that we do that is surplus to requirements~ everything from fussing about making fashion statements to giving a toss about the colour of door handles (and mark my words, some people are obsessed with the colour of door handles.)

Christmas really turns up the ‘busy,’ ‘busy’ volume. Is there sense or reason to it all? I think not and prefer to live each day rather than existing in a busy bubble that is so limiting in terms of creativity, imagination and most of all meaningful connections with those we love and who love us.

Perhaps this is a good moment to pause and take a good, long look at Oscar Wilde’s quote. Remember we only have one life and it’s there to be lived. Maybe some would argue that being busy is the way to live but I just wonder how many of the activities that are running people ragged are ones that they will look back on as having been worthwhile, useful … time well spent.


Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

26 thoughts on “Are You Living or Existing?”

  1. Life is certainly hectic and Christmas certainly does ramp up the volume…taking time out to spend with family and smell the roses…and the words on the blackboard certainly warrant more serious thought from me…which I shall enjoy this arvo…oh hangon, just gotta get the washing in first:):) Great post…

  2. I agree Jean. When we are caught up in other people’s expectations we lose touch with ourselves and what matters most … Living fully one moment to the next 💛

    1. Val, undoubtedly getting caught up in other’s expectations can be a divil but I think some of us can get caught up in expectations of our own making which aren’t necessarily to our advantage (or indeed anyone else’s).

  3. Such a great quote! I hate being busy and crave quiet, alone times when the busyness of life gets out of hand. Sometimes it just can’t be helped when circumstances dictate, but one can always be mindful though, even in the busyness, by staying focused on the present moment. That helps me anyway. 🙂 Great post Jean, thanks for sharing your thoughts. ❤

  4. What did you have to give up in order to achieve your goals..Sometimes what we have we don’t recognize as being gold..a family, make memories, the gift of ones self and of taking the time to listen are more important than the material things that fade with time. Existing is keeping your nose to the grindstone and never looking up or around you and one day everything that seemed important to you is no longer important. Moments shared and memories made outlast material things. Oscar Wildes’ wisdom lives on…take the time to stop and smell the roses.

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