Friday, November 18, 2016
Multiple posts, anecdotes and stories have a seeker climbing a mountain or crossing rushing waters to reach a sage, yogi or guru. The seeker's ever-present question: What is the meaning of life? Responses range from sincere koans to multi-layered stories to snappy retorts. The replies remain open-ended. It's up to the seeker, the reader, to find meaning.
Joseph Campbell redirects the question. Life itself is not what holds meaning. We do. We are alive to bring purpose into the world. If we look at our lives, where do we find meaning? Generally, we find it in the presence of family and friends, in relationships with people and our surroundings. When we discover ourselves seeking life's meaning, it's often because we have lost touch with one of our primary or supporting relationships. This happens in various ways, from the death of a loved one to retirement to our childhood house being razed to a child's marriage and move. We feel grief because of the loss, whether it is something we deem positive such as retirement or our child's marriage or it is something we call negative such as death or a destroyed building. We think the positive losses should not create grief, but our hearts, our spirits, don't follow the course of our shoulds. We feel the loss and we are not able to control that sensation. This does not mean we aren't happy also. We often believe grief and joy don't occupy the same space ~ but they do. They both occupy our hearts.
What Campbell brings forward is that our search for meaning is truly the search for ourselves. Who are we? What brings us joy? How do we express ourselves in the world? When we feel lost or we have lost someone or something important to us, we have difficulty answering those questions. We want the outer world ~ or the Divine ~ to define the meaning of what we are feeling. But that doesn't happen. We are the meaning. All of what we feel is important and significant. It defines us.
In this moment, how do you define your life's meaning? What are you in the midst of doing? How are you living your life? What measure do you use to determine meaning? How do you deal with grief? Can you recall a time when both grief and joy were present in your life?