Saturday, August 17, 2013

Meaning of life 3: bridges of hope

Seeking /constructing meaning is what humans do. We continually examine and sort through our ever increasing mental library of observations, conceptions, knowledge, and other mental stuff to find patterns, correlations, structures of thought which give meaning to our lived experiences. Meaning confers an enhanced reality to the experiences of life.

But beyond the vividness which meaning adds to the mundane flow of life, it also has the capacity to transform grief, loss, and sorrow. The ability to see meaning in the horrible, tragic, awful events that fall on us, creates sacredness in our lives.

Suffering is the response of the mind and emotions to pain – physical, emotional, psychological, and mental. But the human capacity to create meaning from the incomprehensible, constructs a context of value which contains the suffering, elevates it to a higher level of reality.

Pain, loss, sadness, discomfort, anxiety, are simply part of the natural flow of life for both human and non-human. It cannot be avoided. In fact these experiences are an integral aspect of the ongoing evolution of consciousness.

Meanings are ideas we tie around the raw experiences of life. Ideas of courage, perseverance, and patience transform the undefined confusion of bereavement, desperation, and despair. They allow us to conceive afflictions and troubles as heroic, significant, purposeful – as meaningful. The reason we preserve these ideas is that they create meaning out of chaos.

Ideas of meaning give value to suffering, loss, and sorrow. Even when we name our suffering as “ordeals” or “trials”, these simple names give meaning to the meaningless; the pain and sadness become something to be overcome or endured. Endurance is one of the powerful ideas of meaning. It gives deep significance to the suffering which is endured; and it gives strength to the ones enduring the suffering.

Meaning allows the mind to refocus its energies away from the pain, whether our own or that of others. As social animals, the suffering of others affects our own capacity to engage with our normal flow of our life. Meaning opens the mind to envisioning accomplishment in the face of debility, purpose in the midst of collapse.

Being able to wrap our pain in the meaning of bravery, changes the experience of the suffering immensely. If we are able to put our focus on acting with endurance, or on waiting with fortitude, our minds can reach past the suffering, can make it meaningful. The creation of meaning makes possible a deeply sustaining inner strength.

The one who staunchly fights a terminal disease is creating meaning for their life and for their death. And the one who, recognizing they have reached the end, accepts their death with grace and presence, is creating meaning from their life and death. And the meaning they each create expands and gives meaning and light and truth and reality to those who love them and those who hear of them and those who struggle with their own living while dying.

Those who grapple with insurmountable obstacles, who keep their poise in impossible situations, who look for light in the darkness, are creating meaning with their lives. There is a truth to lives which overcome the forces that seek to destroy them and there is another truth in lives which collapse under the destruction with grace. And there is still meaning for those who collapse in hopelessness. It is a darker meaning, but meaning can also be found in that as well. It is not the successful attempt which creates meaning but the ability to see meaning in both success and failure that transforms life.

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