This is a time of deep reflection, perhaps fueled by the bad economy, perhaps by the passing years, or by self-imposed exile from the outside world as it shivers under this latest Nordic blast. Whatever the reason, may we be grateful for the chance to gain new insight into how to relate to the world and my fellow travelers in it.
Over the years many of us have made bad decisions about aquiring expensive material possessions. These decisions were at times impulsive, but were always driven by some deep-seated need for ego enhancement or a false sense of security that the acquisition would bring.
Instant gratification and the notion of a throwaway society can transcend to similar attitudes in larger areas of life and relations. Some of us seek instant and throwaway relationships, only to abandon them when their luster slightly fades.
Even worse, this mindset tends to make us regard life itself in these terms. We fail to earn a measure of success from one effort and brush it off, blaming external circumstances. Then we wander mindlessly into other projects with no more possibility of success or permanence than the last.
Some of us, including myself, go to the other extreme by internalizing, analyzing and criticizing our endeavors to an extreme degree. If something doesn't work out the way we had hoped, it is our fault and our fault alone. We do not feel worthy of success, yet we ply our insecurities with one rationalization after another. A new car? Sure - and it had better be a certain kind of car, appropriate for our imagined status in life. A new house? Of course - go ahead and be mortgaged up to our ears; everybody else is.
Now this house of cards we have built for ourselves is tumbling down, and we must examine what might remain of value when the dust settles.
Clearly we must move beyond the idea that value equates to money. But if not for money, why is life worth living? What kind of meaning can we ascribe to the need for our existence besides our job description? Is life just a random act, or does it have a higher meaning?
Of course the sages have pondered this question through the generations. I cannot pretend to offer a totally new take on the subject. But perhaps I can contribute one thing, something small and simple that can assume a great significance if we allow it to.
And it is this: our purpose in life is only to set a positive example for others. We shall not sit in judgement of the small frailities of others or of their good intentions gone awry. We shall not attempt to control the outcome of others' lives and activities. We shall not let past experiences discourage us from discovering new horizons.
Instead, may we ask this question before we act on any impulse: will this action bring about more peace and understanding in the world?
We shall be accountable only to ourselves and to our Higher Authority.
Let us act this way, and then our lives and the lives of others will be fulfilled. We will emerge from the winter of misunderstanding into the spring of enlightenment. We must lift the shroud of selfishness from our thinking.
This is not a new idea, but it bears repeating, every day.
The Appearance of Reality:
With homage to Mother Teresa