I have variously spent parts of my life chasing cash, prestige, experience. I have come up with ideas of what life is for, and clung to them, perhaps because it is to frightening to admit that I just don’t know. Why was I born? Why will I die? What am I for? Many times in my life, I’ve run from these questions.
Yet without looking at these questions, how can we feel like full human beings? How can we feel meaningful? If we close the big questions down, how can we feel like our lives have as much purpose as they might have?
If I at least admit that these questions exist, instead of trying to push them away, maybe I can take less seriously my want for more things, more stuff. Maybe I can put down the need to work for a bigger job without really knowing what having a bigger job will really mean.
Maybe I can allow myself to deviate from the standard life approaches towards a path that is more authentic to me and more helpful to the world. Maybe I can see that satiating my many desires may not be the real purpose of my life.
If I can see that, maybe I can find a path towards service and meaning. Maybe I may not need to take from the planet what it cannot sustainably give me. Maybe I can work with my companions towards a better world.
Maybe, too, I can see that we’re all in this same boat–not knowing where we’ve come from and where we’re going. That is part of being fully human.
Embracing my humanity might make me feel a little more compassion for you and your plight, and maybe then, too, I might feel a little responsibility for you, since you are probably just about as lost as I am. Perhaps, I might conclude, that whatever this thing called life is, the best thing to do with it is to help each other get through it.
Which leads me to an ancient Zen poem called The Human Route:
Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed–that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
Then what is the one pure and clear thing?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, then you have actually grasped the purpose of this poem. Its job is to help you not know. Because when our thinking about what our lives are for comes to a standstill, then some intuition from a deeper part of ourselves can guide us. That is called intuitive action.
If you don’t know the meaning of your life, embrace it. Do not push that not knowing away. In fact, let yourself not know in every moment of every day. Trust that there is something deeper in you than your ability to figure things out. Then, without judging, allow your right life to appear.
(photo via healthylifestylesliving.com)