The Fountain of Life

Der Jungbrunnen by Lucas Cranach, Image by Wikipedia


“A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Man’s obsession with the discovery of the fountain of youth reaches deep into early history. Whether driven by the desire to overcome his mortality or by the quest to rediscover the key to eternal life, his search spans the written record.

Herodotus, in his “History of Herodotus” written in 440 BCE, tells of Ithyophagi messengers who made their way to Ethiopia to visit the king of the land, where the men were “said to be the tallest and handsomest in the whole world.” Upon their arrival they “questioned the king concerning the term of life” and they were told that most of their people lived to 120 years and some of them well beyond.

Herodotus then added “When the Icthyophagi showed wonder at the number of the years, he led them to a fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil- and a scent came from the spring like that of violets.”

Al-Khadir and Alexander the Great, Image by Wikipedia

Islamic tradition also tells an intriguing tale of a prophet named al-Khadir (The Green Man), who was the only person to have discovered the secret to immortality by drinking once from the fabled Ma’ul Hayat (Fountain of Life). Eastern versions of the Alexander Romance describe the tale of Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness in search of the fountain of life. The servant, incidentally derives from the Arabic tales of al-Khadir!

The archetypal idea that there could be a magical place where restorative waters flow freely is tantalizing, but I have to wonder if we are looking at the record too literally, as children often do when told a story. Could it be instead that the fountain of life is figurative and not literal, a state of being instead of a geographic location or a physical spring?

The stories of great men and women through history who lived phenomenally influential lives are appealing to anyone who has not yet given up on life. They lived life fully and in some cases they found a way to do so without being used up in the process. Was it serendipity, the right combination of genetic material or did they tap into the source of life itself, deep within their bosom?

I imagine that all three of these explanations had some part in it, though good luck and the right genes were likely secondary to the strong sense of self that comes only to those who tap into the wellspring of life within themselves. This connection, I suspect, is not something that can be “gotten” or “possessed,” instead, it is something that manifests as it is given into expression through body, mind and heart.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you cannot give what you do not possess, and I believe in this case that we must add, “…what you do not possess or do not know that you possess.” I believe that the fountain of life is present in each and every person on earth. Whether or not you tap into it is a matter of choice.

Education, religion, spirituality, inspirational and motivational tools that line the self-help shelves and so on are a means to an end in the sense that they provide (in varying degrees) the guidance necessary to reestablish this connection between inner resource and outer expression. When taken as an end, they quickly become a dead end rather than a living one. When viewed as the key to “getting” life rather than giving it, the well-paved road to enlightenment morphs into the road to a hellish life, paved with good intentions.

I would love to hear what lights your fire, what inspires you to push where others crumble and fade away. Don’t be shy…the world needs your vision!

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10 Responses to The Fountain of Life

  1. Mac says:

    Love and trust light my fire and illuminates the path so that I can see and feel how to navigate through seemingly difficult situations. I’ve made choices along the way where everyone around me questioned and tried to get me to “see” it their way. Very often their way was based the way it is “supposed” to be done. I see the potential and look at the big picture and the long term investment in situations (opportunities) and in others.

    I love to help provide the space and environment for people to discover their passion and gifts and watch them blossom and make a difference in their work, family and in the world.

  2. Leni says:

    Being a seeker of many hot springs and resorts in my life, I’ve observed from these ‘fountains of youth’ there is always a source from whence the life giving water comes and there is always an outflow of that water, never stagnant, that gives, feeds, and nourishes. So perhaps it is with life’s natural true expression, from the source within, as we allow our life’s fountain to overflow in giving “that given into expression through body, mind and heart” the fountain of our youthful vitality never dries up.

    Thank you!

  3. Colin says:

    I think that part of this “fountain of life” must come because a person is working for something outside of themselves, or a reason higher than personal interest. Another part of it needs to be acclimated to. Teddy Roosevelt called it “living the strenuous life”. You have to become accustomed to a life where you will push beyond boundaries of endurance that you might have limited yourself to in the past. But progress is inertial, just like in Newtonian physics. It might take a good effort to start. It might even feel like you can’t do it. However, as you pick up steam it should become a life habit, and much easier. The fountain of life is available to all. To tap it, you need to have a balanced life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To have this, you essentially have to grow up and gain the maturity that is necessary to make the right decisions, regardless of personal wants.

  4. strawberryfields says:

    The person that never falls to self pity, blame or gives in to defeat shines like a beacon of light to me. It can be through the centuries or in the present-day. Time or geography does not dim their reverberation.
    Once the victory is demonstrated in a life it is far easier to sail in their wake. Not to just settle for the comfort of a their opened passage but to push further and carry the legacy to the next step.
    There aren’t just a few of these folk, but many. What I choose to read about, discuss and emulate is as much my choice as what I eat or wear. In this sense we do chose our lives.
    As soon as we realize we are the captains of our souls the excitement begins and it has little to do with capricious circumstance.

  5. I. Kearney says:

    Knowing that there is perfection, fineness, beauty, love, truth and grace in the world is what lights my fire. What pushes me to move beyond where others may crumble is the fact that there is purpose and design to our lives.

    Although others may question that statement, it is the one thing that gives my life meaning. When I was thinking about your question, I realized that it’s also my love and respect for others and their love and faith in me that has inspired me to move beyond and live life to my highest vision.

  6. Teresa says:

    Gregg you inspire me many mornings when I begin to doubt my vision. I opened a Wellness Center in Atlanta, GA at the beginning of the recession in 2008. My passion is to assist people in taking responsible for their health and wellbeing. 68% of adults and nearly one-third of children are considered overweight! Americans are mimicking the fall of the Roman Empire, fat and happy. Today we are exposed to the greatest toxic load in the history of our planet. Ongoing, periodic detoxification is essential to maintain health and avoid disease. Cleansing is not longer an option, it’s a necessity.

  7. Foxglove says:

    To learn and to help – I think all my passions are contained within these two vessels, or at least come from them. I would not be able to enjoy myself otherwise, any other form of recreation or leisure.

  8. DeeDee says:

    I love what you are saying here! Most would think it is external and ultimately unattainable, but what a wonderful symbol for something inherently available through each one on earth (whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not). It gives me a great respect for the
    potential of each of us, and something I want to assist my children to know is always available to them no matter what they may have to meet in life.

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