Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Is there meaning in life?

If we ask the question, "What is the meaning of life?" , then perhaps we have got the question backward.

It is not for us to ask the universe to provide a meaning for our life. The universe has provided our life, and expects us to account for its meaning. It is not our question that requires an answer, but the universe's question, "What are you living for?" .

It is up to us to provide the answer. And the answer cannot merely be some abstract concept of love, or peace, or justice. Our lives are actually lived lives, lived in certain circumstances as the consequence of certain actual decisions and actions. We have to actually live out our answer to the universe in terms of "right action' and "right conduct."

The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.

When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how.' "

What makes your life worth living cannot be answered in some abstract way for all of us, but can only be answered in a specific way by each of us for ourselves.

Perhaps you are living for a child who depends on you, or for some great work that you have yet to do.

Perhaps you are living to sing the melody of freedom to the oppressed, to feed the hungry, release the captive, or comfort the sick.

Perhaps you are living to savor the deepest experience of life you can have, to suck the marrow out of life, or to witness and celebrate as creation brings new beauty and novelty into existence and help that birth as you are able.

Maybe you are living to strengthen the bonds of the web that connects everything to everything or in the service of truth and justice reconstitute a previously damaged world.

Perhaps your life is for something smaller than any of these goals, or for something larger, only you can know. But your life must be more than a living out, it must be a living for.

We must learn to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. By inherent we mean worth and dignity comes as a birthright, part of our being born human, prior to any accomplishment or achievement. What we are given with life is already of inestimable worth before we begin living. Our achievements in life do not make life worthwhile, instead our work toward some transcendent goal repays the gift of life by showing the universe that its investment of life in us was well spent.

Each of us lives our own life. No one else is us.

No one else has our talents or our skills. No one lives in our circumstances or has our experiences.

No one else looks out of our eyes and thinks with our brains.

Our place in the world is solely our own and irreproducible. And this certain circumstance of existence that only you inhabit has been gifted with life. There is something in your life that only you can do and you have been given your life in order to do it.

The universe and the world is waiting.

What is your response?

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