Born in 1928 in Geneva to a diplomat father who was also a war hero and high-ranking officer, French-Canadian Jean Vanier was on the fast lane to a naval commission with the Royal Canadian Navy, when he and his mother volunteered to help Holocaust survivors in Paris (where his fathered served as ambassador) when the war ended. The encounter with the skeletal people who had faced so much abuse at the hands of fellow humans shook him to his core and change the course of his life forever.
An avid Catholic, Vanier decided to dedicate his life to do God’s work, founding L’Arche, an international not-for-profit organization that seeks to provide housing, support and advocacy on behalf of intellectually challenged people. Today, L’Arche operates hundreds of communities across 38 countries.
Jean Vanier passed away of cancer in May 7th, 2019 at the age of 90. Earlier, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Vanier published a video titled “10 Rules for Life”. In honor of this prolific philosopher and humanitarian, we bring you Vanier’s tips to a life well lived:
1. Be at Ease with Your Body
People often speak about feeling and looking younger, but Vanier tells us that we need to accept old age for what it is, to recognize the limits of the body as it gets older and not to fight them. Being at peace with these changes will help you appreciate the good in your life, don't focus on what's wrong with your body, appreciate the many functions it does for you.
2. Men, Express Yourselves
Men are often taught to repress their emotions and not to speak about them. As they keep everything bottled up inside, frustration accumulates, leading them to explode in rage or seek to dull their emotions through drugs or alcohol abuse. Give a voice to your concerns and your feelings, or you may be crushed under their weight.
3. Do Not Fear Failure
Many believe that love is a reward for success, and that if they fail at anything, that means they are undeserving of respect or love. We are not the sum of our successes and failures, and often the attempt is more important than the end-result.
4. Marry Your Spouse, Not Your Job
Married couples tend to get lost in the daily grind of work and prioritize their career over their spouses. Your happiness as a couple is more important than a promotion. Talking to your partner is more important than finishing up that one task at work.
5. Be Present
Be more mindful of the way you use technology and social media, learn how to be a person in a social situation without peeking at your phone or a television screen every couple of seconds. Actually listen to the person you’re speaking to. In this world of fast communication, we forget that our bodies and minds are still built for direct, eye to eye conversations.
6. If You Want to Help People, Get to Know Them
Often, we don’t actually see the people we are trying to assist, only their problems. Listen to them, prompt them to tell you about themselves and what brought them to their present situation. Show that you don’t just care about being seen as good or charitable, but that you care about them on an individual level.
7. Get to Know Yourself
You know what you look like, you know what you believe and what you’re good at, but are you familiar with your unique character flaws? Can you trace them to a point in your past? Can you speak candidly about your fears? In order to better yourself, you must first be fully aware of who you truly are.
8. Foster Compassion by Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
To become tolerant, one must look past all of the groups that he belongs to: his family, his tribe, his religion, his nationality. Seek the company of people with different experiences and backgrounds than yours.
9. Listen to Your Soul
We are creatures of curiosity and insatiable desire for great things. Follow your inner voice and go after the things you desire, or your spirit will go hungry. Spirituality comes in many forms, and it can be found in the smallest of God's creatures to the largest, a connection that binds all life.
10. Accept that You Are Temporary
We all dream of leaving a mark on the world, but as the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley relates, even the great pharaohs of old have crumbled, leaving nothing behind but a name that will also fade in time. We are not eternal creatures, and the world will go on without us, and that’s okay.
Image source: Kotukaran