Looking back at all the seasons of life we have lived so far and looking ahead to the yet unknown that is to come, we are able to see that we have been defining ourselves all through life.
If we have lived life like sponges, absorbing experiences without reflecting on them and trying always to win the approval of others, we would never help shape the universe, to reflect the glory of creation all around us.
An undifferentiated life lived on the basis of choices made by other people for us or catering to their expectations alone is fruitless. Every plant, tree, animal, flower we have touched has shaped us. Our childhood was the time for personal differentiation, when we first became conscious of differences. If our parents helped us to develop ourselves, we learned the first few steps towards self-definition.
Our choice of careers, our specialisations and our qualifications were all part of this process. For those depending solely on the opinions of others, the choices they made showed contempt of their own person. By allowing others to dictate their lives, they did not take responsibility for their own actions.
Self-definition is a process of continuous choice exercised by the responsible. Sometimes it may result in approval by significant others. There are times when others may reject us for the choices we make. By rejecting us they circumscribe themselves rather than us. They deny the values that we stand for and the independence of choices that make us different.
Self-definition does not allow us to feel bad about ourselves for long. On analysing the choice we've made, we see that even where we have remained silent or not taken sides, we have been true to ourselves. The walls we had to put up against others or the psychological distance we created were all part of the process.
As we grow older, we become less impetuous and more dispassionate. We adopt equanimity. In the process of evolving as individuals, we continue weaving the fabric of our lives and the designs we create everyday are helping shape the universe. Sometimes, when the way ahead is unclear, faith has helped us move forward.
Looking back we see that grim situations we have been in have taught us priceless lessons. We have learned not to retaliate personally when others attack us. We have kept our hopes alive when we've been written off. We have moved into and inhabited other worlds, when the world as we knew no longer accepted us.
It is only towards the end of our lives that we will begin to understand what impact we might have had on the life of others and how we shaped the universe. Did we build bridges rather than walls? Did we reach out to others or did we imprison ourselves in narrow confines of prejudice and bigotry? Did we allow others to voice their opinions and give them an ear? Or were we so self-absorbed that we could not think beyond our own pedestrian needs? Did we reach into our intrinsic divine self and connect to divinity in others? Only time can tell.
Till we take our last breath, we will continue to define ourselves through our attitudes and actions. We will keep revealing the way we have defined ourselves - either as creators of beauty and harmony in the wider universe or as killjoys who spent a great deal of time and energy disrupting the life of others and our own.