Sometimes I wonder if my life simply matters because it is, or if I have to DO certain things: you know, achieve GREATNESS!!!: to make my life matter.
I hold to the idea of a certain innate human importance: i.e. human beings matter simply because they are. That’s not really what I’m talking about here; this isn’t one of the questions I’m asking of myself.
My question is more about life as it’s lived; the life situation (as Eckhart Tolle calls it). You know: career, hobbies, exercise, learning, relationships. What is really important? What really matters? Am I supposed to be happy with my life as it is, as many of the self-help gurus say? Am I supposed to realize that I’m really deeply unhappy and so I have to DO all these special steps to find happiness?
When I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road the first time, I immediately had an interpretation of the meaning of that book. It was: The Road is about focusing on what’s important.
Later, I arrived at more elaborate interpretations, but that initial focus on what’s important idea has stood the test of time. For the man (in case you haven’t read it and plan to, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum) who unnamed, the boy is “what’s important.” Everything in the story deals with keeping that boy alive, or to die trying.
Since reading that novel, I have often thought about my own children and how important they are to me. I’ve thought about the other members of my family and how they are also important to me. I look at what I have (of course, if someone else had what I have they may not experience gratitude, but rather despair) and am grateful.
So, what is really important? Air to breathe. Water to drink. Food. A roof over my head. All of those things are nice to have, esp. the three basic needs: and those are also covered in McCarthy’s book.
Ultimately, what is the most important thing? It’s not really a thing at all.
I read a lot of literature and it is important to me. I often get very informative answers from literature, and mind-saving info, too. There have been a number of times that I have read a certain passage from a novel or play or poem and it has given me a new perspective on life.
Yet, literature is not the most important thing, either. Although literature often contains a portrayal of it, or an attempt at it.
The most important thing is love. There, I said it. I’m not talking only about love between a man and woman, because that is only one narrow aspect of love and is often misunderstood (that’s the stuff for a-whole-nother post). I’m talking about love that is willing to give itself completely. Sometimes the love between a man and woman is like that, but more often that kind of love is the love of a parent for a child. A love that would die, fight, scrape, do whatever to make sure that child is safe and will grow to be the best human being he or she can be. That’s the kind of love I saw that the man had for his son in The Road.
So, what does that have to do with a life that matters? Everything. Everything and more.
Socrates supposedly said that the unexamined life is not worth living. That may be true, or it may not. But, if we don’t examine our lives we will have a difficult time building one that matters. That’s not to say that we have to run off to every self-help seminar, or buy every book and CD/DVD program at the local bookstore on 23 Steps to Super-Over-Mega-Achieving Every Single Goal in Your Stupendous Mind, or something. What it means is that we take stock. We really look at what we believe about the important things. We then have to get down to the real thing: What is really important?
Now, we’re right back where we were up there ^. The important thing is love. It’s important that we rebel against the “natural” instincts and that we love, have compassion for our fellow human beings. If we can get to the level/degree of the love a parent has for a child (those few exceptions notwithstanding), that’s great. The thing is, we have to begin. We have to begin wherever we happen to be. It’s like that old film says: “Baby steps.”
This isn’t a command. I have no authority for such things. From me, it’s just a suggestion and a thought about what’s important. Now, if you happen to be Christian, then, you do have a command to love… Sorry, I can’t be held responsible for that.
Joking aside, how much better would our world be if everyone just began to love one another a little more than they do now? Just try to picture it. Just try to imagine it.
I hope this doesn’t sound preachy. That was/is not my intention. I’m merely thinking aloud, so to speak, and hope that you will think along with me on this important issue.
Over the years I have walked many different paths: some exclusive, some inclusive. Now, my heart is heavy because I miss people from all the different walks of life I have been in and as I age on the outward plane, I grow to realize the truly important thing can also be an urgent thing. The trick, I think, is to not let it become an overwhelming thing. People are important and relationships with people we care about are important. Love is the most important thing. It is the better thing.
Please remember to tell the people who you find important, how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them.
Now, say, “Yes, mother!” and go do it. :-)