On most Sunday mornings, a good friend and I meet for coffee and a chat or outing. Today we exchanged our Christmas gifts.
She gave me a pretty silver ring engraved with the words To thine ownself be true. And this fits so beautifully with my recent thoughts.
Falling into winter has traditionally been my time of introspection, sometimes grey and dark, and always edifying if occasionally difficult. Looking at the narrow slice of world around me, having removed the blinders normally keeping me on a bright and sunny path, I was saddened by the proud coarseness of those around me, and even more so by their addiction to what is ugly and hurtful to others. Reality television humiliating people of low intelligence is cruel – no matter how beautiful, willing and foolish those people are. Hatefulness toward people of other religions is barbaric. Wars are ugly and usually needless. Violence toward children and animals is the lowest of all: preying on those who are defenseless.
In considering this, the old and universal question again arose in my mind: What is the purpose of life? I have pondered this question many times; sometimes in the abstract, as an intellectual meditation, and sometimes in the heart, as a lament. During my churchgoing days I prayed to God for an answer that engaged heart and reason, and received silence; I asked pastors and priests and rabbis, and none could provide satisfaction. I have asked this question of others, friends and family, and have received replies ranging from God to Nothing, and none of these answers have served. Yet, without a purpose what good does life offer a person? We don’t ask to be born, and yet we are; we don’t wish to die, and yet we do. It is the stuff in between that creates the problem.
So one might sympathize with my surprise when yesterday I found I had found the answer to my life’s question; more so, perhaps, in that this answer was not found in a religious building or a laboratory but rather my own backyard.
And now I begin.