What I Have Lived For

A Note From The Other Side


We have added the writing below to Funeral Guide as we found it thought provoking.  It is a beautiful piece of deeply felt philosophy which Bertrand Russell wrote as the prologue to his autobiography.  How would it be to write our own feelings and brief life philosophy to leave behind one day.  Perhaps a note to our loved ones attached to our will or some such.  It is just a thought, read the writing below and see if it moves you.


What I Have Lived For – Bertrand Russell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.  These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.  I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy.  I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss.  I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined.  This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what at last I have found.  With equal passion I have sought knowledge.  I have wished to understand the hearts of men.  I have wished to know why the stars shine.  And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens.  But always pity brought me back to earth.  Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.  Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be.  I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.  This has been my life.  I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

~The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography


A Summarized Adaption of the Prologue Above

Three passions have governed my life:
The longings for love, the search for knowledge,
And unbearable pity for the suffering of humankind.


Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.
In the union of love I have seen
In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision
Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.


With equal passion I have sought knowledge.
I have wished to understand the hearts of people.
I have wished to know why the stars shine.
Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,


But always pity brought me back to earth;
Cries of pain reverberated in my heart
Of children in famine, of victims tortured
And of old people left helpless.
I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,
And I too suffer.


This has been my life; I found it worth living.


About Bertrand Russell

Orphaned at the age of four, Bertrand Russell studied both mathematics and philosophy Cambridge University, where he later taught. As the grandson of a British prime minister, Russell devoted much of his public effort to matters of general social concern.  He was jailed for writing a pacifist pamphlet during the First World War.  Russell supported the battle against Fascism during World War II but continued to protest Western colonialization and publicly deplored the development of weapons of mass destruction.   Throughout his life, Russell was an outspoken critic of organized religion as both unfounded and deceptive; he detailed its harmful social consequences in “Why I am not a Christian” (1927) and defended an agnostic alternative in “A free man’s worship” (1903). His Marriage and Morals (1929), an attack upon the repressive character of conventional sexual morality, was a central focus in the legal action that prevented him from accepting a teaching post at the City College of New York in 1940.  Russell’s Autobiography (1967-69) is an excellent source of information, analysis, and self-congratulation regarding his interesting life. Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950.


Bertrand Russell
(1872 – 1970)