Finding Meaning in Life – or Not.

In that lovely reverie between waking and sleeping I found myself pondering the differing perspectives of two people who look at life in paradoxical ways. One believes that everything in his life creates meaning; the other believes that there is no meaning to his life at all; it is a series of disconnected random events to which he is subject. Will each be equally content with his life? Who finds the greater happiness? Does it matter if one or both are totally in error in their belief? If the former lives in a world of delusion and creates meaning in his own life; is that good thing or a bad thing? Is it possible that those who look for meaning will find it but no such meaning exists for those who don’t look for it? It is at moments like this that one can disappear like Alice down the rabbit hole to wake up in Wonderland.
Of course each of us can only view the events of our life through our own eyes and as I view life through the lens that everything has the potential to be meaningful, it is not a significant step from that point to believe that within the universe there is some kind of organizing intelligence that can contribute meaningfully to our existence. At this point I can imagine the sighs of exasperation from some who leap immediately to the conclusion that this is all about God and as we all know (because Richard Dawkins tells us so) God is a delusion. However as a wise minister reminded me many years ago, we all have some form of God concept be it rationalism, money, benevolent force, punishing force, nature etc. In fact he also suggested that on occasion our God concept becomes redundant and we have to recreate it. He even considered atheism a God concept. Now there is a contradiction of terms if there ever was one. In my own life I rejected the God concept of my parents that revolved around fundamental Christianity. As a result the new one I created was atheism however after almost thirty years later I found myself exploring new God concepts that are the result of my own personal discernment. This is still a work in progress.
I find that believing in meaning helps me deal with the adversities of life in a more positive way. One fall day I was enjoying a beautiful hike in the north shore mountains of Vancouver. As I neared the end of a spectacular afternoon, I lifted my foot onto a log, slightly lost my balance as I stepped forward and landed awkwardly on my right foot. The ankle turned and I heard a loud crack and I found myself sitting in the mud. My initial surprise was immediately replaced by a deep sense that there was meaning behind this accident. However my first job was to get down the mountain. With no one around and no cel-phone I was on my own with over a kilometer to go. I managed to regain my feet and realized that I could not put weight on my right foot. Then I had another epiphany that affirmed my belief that there was order in this incident. Three years ago my ex-wife had given me a stout hiking cane but I had never used it. In fact I had left home without it and had driven off before the idea of taking it imagined its way into my mind. Fortunately I overcame the inertia that would have caused me to continue and returned for the cane. Now it became the crutch that got me off the mountain. Without it I could not have got down. It was as though my inner wisdom knew this accident was going to happen.
My belief in meaning from this experience was fueled later that evening. I was sitting on my couch reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying when I encountered a passage that suggested that new age spirituality had no depth “Pick a path any path” it suggested and observed that it was often better to pursue a path connected with your own cultural identity. I knew this passage was meant for me. For the last four weeks I had been resisting the entreaties of dear friend to visit a church he had found. I had been in total resistance. “I am not going to a church and that is that!” I had exclaimed. The “cosmic two by four” is a tool to help me see blockages in my life and surely the accident was just that. This proved to be a pivotal change in my life for which I have ever been grateful.
There was an interesting epitaph. The hospital could not put a cast on because the ankle was too swollen from my ordeal so I received a splint that would last a week then I would receive the cast. This proved a gift as a week later I was told I could move to an air cast (no awkward, heavy plaster of paris) and I was saved from being on crutches for five weeks.
My alter-ego perhaps may have missed an amazing moment or perhaps for him it just would have been a rather annoying accident. Carl Jung did not believe in coincidences. He defined the term for meaningful coincidences as a synchronicity. Sometimes a cigar is much more than a cigar.


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