Relative or Absolute?

Definitions (from

Relative: considered in relation or in proportion to something else.

Absolute: viewed or existing independently and not in relation to other things; not relative or comparative.

I was first introduced to the concept of relativity through studying Einstein’s theory, which stated that all motion must be defined relative to a frame of reference and that space and time are relative, rather than absolute concepts. Here is an example for simplification: A cheetah is fast, if compared to a wolf or another mammal, however, it is not as fast as a bullet train. A bullet train is fast, if compared to cars, however, it is not as fast as an aeroplane…so on and so forth. Everything is always comparative, which is the idea that has now been introduced to every day living.

We live in a materialistic world, which is where the idea of relativism starts for most of us. People are classified as rich, or poor, or middle class, all of which are relative. You will only know you’re rich if everyone around you has less wealth, and vice versa. Which begs the question – what is the true meaning of wealth? (But that is a concept we’ll discuss next time). Basic needs such as food, housing, and water are given a sense of hierarchy, which can allow many people to either feel that they are triumphing, or for others it is crushing. Ask yourself this: would you know what you are actually worth if you had nothing to compare it to?

So then what is absolute living? Several philosophers have stated that this would the top of the pyramid, the self-fulfilment, the self-realization, or even enlightenment. Some say that the majority of the world will never achieve absolution, as society has made it impossible for us to be satisfied. Capitalists would argue that without relativity there would be no society, no community, no jobs, nothing. In a way, they are right – we are now accustomed to these norms. There are few in this world that would be willing to sacrifice everything they have and accept the idea of absolution. If you are absolute, you are permanently content. You will not yearn for better, you will not seek out more. It would be ludacris to expect everyone to do that, in fact, I would not do it myself, but there are some things that are required to be absolute.

Let’s think about the word Love. Not the kind you have for your wardrobe or your gadgets. I mean unconditional love, perhaps between a mother and her child. I am aware of the fact that not everyone has experienced this type of love, but I know many who have. Another one: Happiness. What makes you happy? Is this happiness dependent on someone/something else? Here’s another heavy hitter: Forgiveness. Either your forgive, or you don’t. If you have established a condition, then your forgiveness is relative. One more to tie it all together: gratitude. Being thankful is difficult for many to do. We may easily say, “I am grateful for my job, my home, my spouse”, but where is this gratitude when those same things or people are not working in your favour? Do you appreciate your surroundings when life seems tough?

Daisaku Ikeda once said:

The years pass. The times change. The only thing that survives and transcends this inevitable process, that shines brighter with each new era, is the record of a great human spirit that has endured struggle and remained true to its deepest convictions to the very end.

Life is not relative, as long as you remained true to yourself. So do your part: be grateful, be appreciative, be happy, be forgiving, love all, and don’t forget to breathe.


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