It's said that there was once a king, who asked his servant to bring him a mystical ring that he'd only heard of in legends. The king told his servant that looking upon this ring would turn a joyous man sad, and would cause a sad man to be filled with joy. While the servant was skeptical, he went off to find such an amazing item.
The servant searched for months, and one day came upon an old, weathered jeweler. He asked the jeweler if he'd ever heard of this mystical ring, and described to him that powers that it supposedly had. The jeweler paused, and picking up a plain, simple golden ring, engraved something on the inside. He handed the ring to the servant, who read the engraving and smiled.
The servant soon returned to the king and presented him with his prize. Thrilled to finally have the ring in his possession, the king read what was inscribed, and the smile fell from his noble face:
"This, too, shall pass."
While this is a simple fable, I think that the meaning of life may lie in those words. At its core, this phrase represents the essence of impermanence. Everything is constantly changing. I believe that if we are able to truly understand impermanence, and to know deeply that suffering never lasts, and to know deeply that external happiness can be taken away at any moment, we will lead lives of gratitude.
If we could acknowledge at a deep, soulful level that those we love could be lost in an instant, we would cherish every delicate moment together with them. Tough decisions would be easier. Feelings we try to suppress would flow freely. "I love you" would be said more often. There would be no time for dishonesty.
If we could accept that all superficial sources of happiness are fleeting, we would resist the urge to cling to them. Habits, addictions, attachments would fade away because we would no longer feel the anxious need to find ourselves in them.
The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. (Coelho). This is because fear is dependent on the idea that something is constant, that something is inevitable and unchanging. Fear relies on our illusion that something bad will come, and will stay. Fear is afraid of change, and it is afraid of the unknown. This is why love is the purest form of freedom: Love is the ultimate unknown.
Imagine the freedom of not being afraid of suffering. It's possible. Know that no suffering lasts, and the fear will melt away.
Imagine the freedom of loving openly and honestly, and showing your loved one who you really are. Realize deeply that this loved one may be gone tomorrow, and you'll find it much easier to love them today the way that they deserve. Everything else will wash away, like footprints in the sand.