My “church” yesterday was a discussion-group with some other retired people who are associated with the local Unitarian church. The announced topic for this occasion was, “How to find meaning in your life.”
Well, let me explain. This group was comprised of highly educated and successful men and women who were “imports” to Taos, New Mexico from various parts of the country. So it didn’t take but a few minutes for “literallew” to stir and want to announce with resolution and ardor, “Back to the bible! God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Of course I didn’t as I too do not look at life through the narrow prism of conservative thought and see…and feel…the ambiguity inherent in life. For an hour and a half we sincerely and honestly shared re our struggles for meaning through the course of our lives, struggles which continue today. Initially “literallew” did feel the leering glare of meaningless and want to revert to “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness.” But as the discussion deepened, my spirits actually lifted as we wrestled in the morass of meaning/meaninglessness.
On the way home I mused with my wife about why this discussion had lifted my spirits. And it was readily apparent—I felt connection! I realized…and felt…that I was in the midst of other human beings who had, and still do, wrestle with the same doubts and fears that I do. And there is a “nakedness” that is apparent in moments like this but a very appropriate “nakedness,” simple acknowledgement of human doubts and fears. And it is this “nakedness” that ultimately unites us all. Beneath the surface of our “strutting and fretting,” beneath the veneer of civilization, we are vulnerable, fragile little boys and girls who hunger to know that we are not alone.
This discussion demonstrated “faith” as I now see and feel faith to be. Now certainly many of these people would not describe themselves as persons of faith and even more so, certainly not “Christian.” Faith is the word I wish to use to describe their courage to live their life purposefully when life often appears to her without purpose.
Here is a perspective on the matter from T. S. Eliot in his Four Quartets:
And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.