[Written on the 15th of May 2020] When I found out that my university will be closing on March 22nd, with a move to online teaching, and that the examinations will be held online, I wasted no time. I bought a ticket for Sunday, March 15th with a flickering hope that the flight won’t get canceled. Last chance to leave the UK, running away from the wonderful strategy of doing nothing, in the hope of creating herd immunity. Now we can see how herd immunity turned into a death sentence.
The topic of meaning is becoming one of my favorites to write about. I guess that is reflective of my young, barely not-teen, age, by some characterized as the peak of the most forming years of one’s life, when the question of meaning looms over as an ever-present dread that refuses to offer a clear answer.
But as I talk and listen to more people, existential questions seem to loom over a person for the entirety of their life. Although not everyone ponders whether there is some grand meaning to their existence, almost universally, regardless of age, we ask, what should I do with this life? Have I chosen the right path?
The uniquely human condition of being able to reflect upon our role in this vast universe we find ourselves in is suffocating the psychological well-being of many individuals born into prosperity, into life without struggle. At least that’s what I see around me.
We live in unprecedented times of prosperity. We have achieved much of what the evolutionary will to survive propelled us to secure. In the western world, much of what we need or desire is so close, often not farther than at the tips of our fingers.
This is a continuation of the previous post where I explored what I have gained from cultivating self-knowledge. So, if you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you first take a look at the story of how pursuing self-knowledge led me to understanding, freedom, compassion, and self-assurance.
“Know thyself,” read the famous words chiseled into the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. A phrase at the forefront of cringe-worthy self-help platitudes, as well as of thorough considerations in the minds of great thinkers of the past and present.
What happens when you begin to focus on the present moment? What happens when for a brief moment you start to pay attention to what is going on around you? When you dare to just be?
Reading Anthony De Mello’s Awareness I came across an interesting idea. Mello writes: “You know, all mystics – Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion – are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox to be sure.”
My journey with meditation starts with my year abroad in the US. Living in a dorm thousands of kilometers away from family and friends, just about to turn sixteen in a completely different culture and environment, had its say on my stress levels. As I wrote in my thoughts on anxiety, I used to wake up every morning with my heart pounding, tied up stomach, and an underlying fear. Up until then, thankfully, I’ve never had such problems. My only point of reference was nervousness form before all the hockey games I had or from going home after I got a bad grade.
This is a continuation of some of my thoughts on the question of meaning I wrote about in the previous post, part one. However, this part was written first so the flow from one to the other could have been smoother, but I think you will be able to find the thread.
What to do with this life? I have been haunted by that question ever since I asked it.
The search for meaning is a seemingly never-ending journey. When you refuse to succumb to the readily available answers, to the low-hanging solutions, such as national identity or religion, the search takes on a foggier path.
At first, you keep the unjustified expectation of something grand, something all-encompassing, something that is transparent, not translucent.
To go to the woods and walk through its rich air, to cold iron in a gym with sweat on your brow, to a window at sunrise or sunset, or just to an empty room, can bring the needed rest to the soaked mind with daily worries. When in solitude, I enjoy the time of silence, the time of quiet relaxation that, paradoxically, can come in a loud and arduous environment. In solitude I find much, peace, rest, inspiration, understanding, joy, and especially when solitary in nature, I find respect, humility, and awe.