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Dear Scarlett Featured

Scarlett, 6, wrote to us at The Psychology of It asking for a "scientist" to help her understand "that if we all just die anyway, why do we live?" Below is my open letter to Scarlett.

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Image captured from within Flow magazine

Dear Scarlett,

Your mummy Rachele sent me your very excellent question the other day and asked me if I could help you find the answer. She said you've been wondering about why we live at all if one day, we're all just going to die. This is a very important and very intelligent question Scarlett, well done to you for asking something that some adults wouldn't consider until much, much later in their lives.

I wanted to take some time with my answer because it is a very important question and one that I'm afraid doesn't have only one simple answer.

You could ask one hundred different people from different cultures and different religions or spiritual backgrounds and you could possibly get one hundred different answers! That's a lot, isn't it?

So I thought the best way to answer your question, is to tell you what I think. This is the very same question that I've been asking myself a lot over the last ten years, ever since my Nana died, so I've given it a lot of thought.

When I first went to university, I read about a famous philosopher called Albert Camus. He wrote a story about a man named Sisyphus, who the gods said had to spend his whole life rolling a stone to the top of a hill. Then he would let the stone roll back down the hill and he had to follow it down and roll it back up again, all day every day, just rolling the stone up the hill, letting it fall down again, and then pushing it back up, time after time for his entire life. Can you even imagine doing that?

We could say that Sisyphus' story is just like life. Sometimes we have ups and sometimes we have downs which continue until the day we die. Some people might look at Sisyphus and say that his life has no meaning because he just goes up and down the hill all day. But to Sisyphus, his job of rolling the big stone up and down the hill all day was his purpose. To Sisyphus his life had meaning.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that having meaning in our lives is very important and the meaning of our life is a very individual thing, so it might be different for all of us.

It's true that our lives are short compared to the amount of time humans have and will be on the earth, but the wonderful thing is that no matter how short the time is we have here, we all form a really important part of life for all of mankind. Isn't that exciting?

One of our basic instincts as people is to stay alive and to help others stay alive. This means that we want to care for other people and we want to make life better for the people who are with us now, but also for the people who are yet to be born in the future.

When I think about my job, I care for other people and I help them to feel better and to care better for the other people in their lives, so that they might also be able to care for their children and grandchildren and teach them to care for others.

Your mum's job is very similar to mine. She helps a lot of young people learn how to cope when life is a little bit hard, just like when Sisyphus' stone rolls down the hill. Those young people will grow up and have children of their own and they'll pass on everything your mummy taught them, and so on and so on, even long after we are no longer here. Isn't that awesome? In that way, a little bit of us lives forever and what we did when we were alive makes a big difference even when we're gone.

So our lives matter very much. They matter to other people and to future generations who haven't even been born yet. Our lives also matter to the planet because how well we look after it while we're here matters very much to how we leave it for the future generations.

Claire wrote to you on Facebook and agreed that your question is a very tricky one to answer, but she wants you to think about whether you like to build sandcastles even though they don't last forever?

And Kate said to tell you that sometimes knowing that we will die helps us to live and really make the most out of our lives.

That's a lot to think about for a little mind, but maybe one day down the track you'll look back at this letter and at your question and you'll be able to answer it for yourself.

Something tells me that won't be a problem.

Warmest regards and big hugs and kisses,


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  • Comment Link Sherry %AM, %23 %079 %2018 %11:%Jan posted by Sherry

    Delicately done, if we all could be introduced to death this early in life we could all maybe live our life's on purpose.

  • Comment Link Jodie @ The Psychology of It %PM, %19 %423 %2017 %20:%Mar posted by Jodie @ The Psychology of It

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Sal! That's very cool.

  • Comment Link Sally %PM, %19 %379 %2017 %19:%Mar posted by Sally

    Love this!

  • Comment Link Alison Elliott %PM, %02 %588 %2016 %23:%Jul posted by Alison Elliott

    Excellent Jod, well answered.

    I'm off to build sandcastles. X

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