Friday, December 24, 2010
A Season of Life
A Season of Life
Many people believe that nothing really matters, because after all, in a few hundred years we will all be gone anyway. Yet, they struggle, they stress, and they attempt to accomplish goals as though whatever they achieve will be permanent. Why?
Once the Earth disappears, which is the eventual fate of all planets, even Shakespeare's works will be gone forever, so what's the point of writing them in the first place? We know things don't last forever, but we attempt to achieve them anyway. We make excuses for living. We help friends. We care for our loved ones. We even do some things for ourselves so we will be better prepared to help others in their meaningless journey through life. Why?
In the large scheme of things, our individual lives do not seem to matter at all. Of course, many of us believe that on a small scale we do matter, because we are important to the people close to us. We feel as though our lives are significant, because our children, parents, and friends think we are important to them. Of course, if their lives are also insignificant, does it really matter what we do for them?
Philosophers will tell us that just living is enough. If we simply enjoy whatever time we have, that should be sufficient. Just live, they say. However, for me, that philosophy only works if I resign myself to the idea that my individual life is meaningless. I have some trouble with that concept. I would like to be part of something much larger. Can I make a difference to the world? Can I change the course of history? Can I improve life for future generations? Probably not, but what does it matter anyway, because even on a larger scale, my accomplishments will come to an end – and become meaningless.
How about a religious approach? Our lives on Earth are spent in preparation for a personal relationship with God, so it doesn't matter if they are meaningless. The whole point of life would be to do God's will. The problem with this solution for many people lies in the fact that too many questions remain unanswered. Faith gives us the connection we need to something larger, which, in turn, gives our lives meaning. Still, too much remains unanswered. The concept of God is not explainable by man. For many, there lies the answer! God is the term used to explain away everything not explainable. That's faith, and it works for some, but not for others. Looking from the outside in at our lives, they seem meaningless, unless we simply conclude that we cannot understand it anyway, so we rely on the unexplainable to explain it.
I remember sitting alone in my backyard years ago. I began to watch an ant colony at work. The ants were quite organized. They each had their roles. They worked hard on behalf of the whole colony. They systematically built a mound of sand, and carried food to the occupants inside. I started thinking about the fact that these organized, fascinating creatures could not possibly understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Their lack of intellectual capability did not render Einstein's Theory incorrect. It simply meant that the truth was beyond their capacity to understand. Could it be that the concept of God is reality, and we just can't understand it? Sure. That's faith.
But that is looking at life from the outside in, and as we face the struggles of life, some of us crave more. We recognize that we can't understand what we can't understand, just like ants. Nevertheless, it would be nice to take some comfort while we are alive in the fact that there is individual meaning for our existence. So here is the bottom line. It is possible to view life from the inside out. We can understand that. Our lives are connected to other lives, and we are meaningful to them, and they to us. Although we would prefer to view ourselves from the outside in as being permanently meaningful to something larger, we can't prove it. However, it makes no sense at all to tell ourselves it really does not matter if we exist, BECAUSE WE DO EXIST! My life is important to my family, because it is.
While many people insist on remaining depressed over what they cannot understand, I prefer to enjoy my life, simply because I have one. I prefer to remain happy every day of my life, simply because it is important to those around me. I refuse to spend my existence assuring myself that the outside world recognizes the meaning of my life. I prefer to take daily comfort in the fact that what is inside of me can be shared with those I love and admire, which gives me purpose. Especially during this Holiday season, I find it absurd to believe that living the Golden Rule violates the will of any higher Being that exists. To me, that is meaningful.
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.