Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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The unlived life is not worth examining

I was always attracted to a portion of Michael McClure's "Meat Science" essays that was excerpted in Paris Review some years ago. I don't believe I have it anymore, but this particular portion of poetry fragment was about a series of life-half-lived things, followed by the phrase "is suicide". I am always intrigued by the fact that each breath is another notation of the passage of time, and hence a tiny suicide (in this life, anyway, no matter what one's views of an afterlife may be). The advent of enhanced "geek interface" brought to us via the internet, such as the connectivity of LiveJournal, shows me this is a much-examined theme. I, too, think a great deal about the problem of the meaningful and examined life, and in particular living life while examining it.

I don't have any tremendous insights to bring to the question of finding one's individual meaning, and I certain don't want to make this particular post some theological discourse. The existential problem of just "being" has been addressed, from virtually every ideology and belief structure, by minds more capable of wrapping around the various issues than my own has proven to be. I wonder if, but frankly assume the proposition almost certain, that others share my wish to have advanced training in philosophy or theology. I don't pretend that such training would teach me the meaning of life, but it might teach me a vocabulary that I do not know now with which to put my thoughts in some more pleasingly random order. As it is, as with nearly all my "high flown" education, I am more a philosopher of the books in the lending library than a truly well read person.

Maybe it's all like that Indigo Girls song some years ago, which posited that the less I think about such things, the "closer I am to fine". But that's not really my view.

I cannot in a simple message post express my own view of the meaning(s), if any, of life, nor do I believe that this journal is a particularly good tool to do so (check back next week, as I often change my mind on these questions). I'm more a magpie than a systematic thinker anyway, taking this glittery idea, and that bit of solid straw, to build my particular "personal salvation" nest. But I do notice how much inner turmoil people have from the problem of "what does it mean?" and the related problem "does it all mean anything at all?".

I am a superficial person, but frequently I wish to say (and therefore say here) that this life lived as if life mattered is in and of itself a very important thing. I do not know why thinking people cannot behave as my dogs do, who find meaning in just the day to day of living in a family grouping. I have certainly known people who do find just such a meaning. But I have also found that people who matter to me live their lives because life must be not only lived but also *understood*. I am not claiming that this "understanding" is uniform or even necessarily enlightened. One person "understands" a fairly ordered cosmology, while another person "understands" only a fundamental angst and futility. But the inquiry, the inner search, that is what I admire.

I meet so many people, and read a fair number of journals, in which people do not celebrate that they have chosen a path (in some cases, the path chooses them, they know no other way). When that path leads them to action--that is the Way.

It is so faux "cool" to live life with a sort of ennui, a
complacency that degenerates into misplaced contentment or, worse yet, material wealth yet fundamental discontent. We have all known folks who thrive on a bit of denigration of one's neighbor, a few choice quotes from mildly snotty writers, and the sheer glee that getting "one up" on someone else can cause. A bit more forgivable are the folks who just never imagine that there is anything to think about.

So often, though, I want to celebrate people who don't always know the path, and who are not bored already of the destination. If I do not insist upon a rage at the dying of the light, then also I do not require us to become moral Stepford Wives. So many people tell us to surrender to this or to that, to accept what we cannot understand. We hear over and over voices of complacency bewailing the evolution of our culture. But in this evolution, as strewn with challenges as it may be, I find the first few kernels of hope. We've seen what "20th Century Enlightenment" brought us--we can now take dime tours of graveyards and see the figures imprinted in the sidewalks where the bombs went off. Now we must all collectively see if there is a different path. Grandiose? Certainly. But life can be a bit grandiose, and yet still work.

I'm pleased that the word "spirituality" no longer has a negative spin among most thinking people I know. I would love to see "science" again acquire the untarnished perfection it had in the early 1960s.

But when I am on LiveJournal, I mostly think that I see
incredibly diverse people, "lovely" in some real sense of the word, who constantly denigrate the admirable fact that they have chosen to be people who do not merely accept the roadblocks in their understanding of things, but that they choose to be Achilles in Hell, fighting to learn, rather than some dog in a false Heaven, immune to asking "what matters?".

I know that this search sometimes causes a pain which a more flaccid approach to life might spare. I certainly do not wish to glorify the fetishists who use chic nihilism merely as some sort of downspin "ecstasy drug", rather than as heartfelt inquiry. But most people that I admire search within as they try to live among other people. If I sometimes wish that these "thinking" folks had a little more pragmatism in dealing with others, and "making day to day life work", I never wish them to stop trying to deal with what I call "the mysteries", and someone else might call something prosaic or poetic.

I guess this is all a way of saying I like people who live as if life matters, and I find those people here on LJ. I am not sure about glib expressions such as "many paths, one journey" or "many voices, one choir". But I am sure that I believe in a kind of truth inherent in the search itself that matters more to me sometimes than the words in which that truth is expressed. I am also saying that I feel myself drawn to this very questing in folks who themselves sometimes wonder why they quest at all.

I'm not knocking contentment. God has granted me a good deal of that, from time to time, and I will drink it daily in as large a dose as I can. I'm just saying that often I see people searching, and I want them to see that search as a saving grace, and not an irreparable flaw. I don't know anything about what motivates people inside, but I do enjoy seeing who live their lives as if the examination is part of a dynamic process, much more than people who never examine their lives, or people whose examination never gives them pause to really live. Even people who say "I must soldier on so that someone else can figure this out" have a place in my heart. Has anyone else noticed how many really saintly people help others without a clue as to why it matters, but with every clue that it does, somehow, matter?

If my feelings on this make me not much more than a fan club for conflicted people who try really hard to get through the day anyway, I can live with that knowledge :). That may be my cross, lightweight though it is, and may it yet carry me to the shade of a Bodhi Tree, or within hearing range of that wonderful first contact a radio telescope will one day provide.
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