The Meaning of Existence

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Paul Noth

To encounter the sacred is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence.

— N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)

“The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me. Or, conversely, I myself am a question which is addressed to the world, and I must communicate my answer, for otherwise I am dependent upon the world’s answer.” — C. G.Jung

“In old age one begins to let memories unroll before the mind’s eye and, musing, to recognize oneself in the inner and outer images of the past. This is like a preparation for an existence in the hereafter, just as, in Plato’s view, philosophy is a preparation for death. — C.G. Jung

I have arrived at the age where images of my whole life roll through my mind all night. Something in me is attempting to make sense of my story and to see further and deeper that I did in living it. Putting together the most salient events and the thoughts and expectations behind them draws a picture of a life in which unconscious intentions and a certain blindness were at work.

The major themes of my life are emerging from a fog of unconsciousness. It’s a process that I didn’t expect to happen, but it’s evidently very common for people of my age.

I’m starting to be able to make sense of my drama, which seems to be the continuation of a family saga with all its pathos and unnecessary suffering. Who knows how long, over how many generations this story has been kept alive, with all its self inflicted tragedies, no different from countless others in every corner of the world, I’m sure.

More than an obvious and inadvertent blindness, there seems to be an inherited commitment to the drama, strangely enough.

As the scenes of my life unfold spontaneously before my mind’s eye, I often begin to see my mistakes, misjudgements and smallness of spirit. I am being asked to forgive others as well as myself for creating karma. Youthful follies, thoughtless injuries of others, retaliation for imagined slights, exaggerated self protectiveness — the whole gamut of human sins and failings. I’m not the blameless actor I took myself to be.

Interesting that these revelations comes so naturally at this point in my human unfolding.

Humor is not missing from this process. It seems that life is both heavy and light, both playful and grave, both tragic and comedic. I threw myself at my life, spilling a lot of beans and barking a lot of shins. I have a lot to be thankful for, not a few things to deeply regret, and I can report that I actually have learned some essential things.

I’ve learned that love and forgiveness are basic requirements for life on Earth. I’ve learned that pleasure and play are nourishment for the soul. I’ve learned that everyone needs tenderness and to be listened to. I’ve learned that we all carry a treasure within ourselves, that we all embody a gift for the world if we can find it in our heart of hearts.

We are meant to live in love, pleasure, fun and to give our gifts to others.

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