I can actually feel my brain being stretched as I begin to formulate an answer to a challenging question, like a piece of plastic wrap that one pulls as tight as possible to get the most out of it. Imagination, creativity, values and logic are forced to work together and growth occurs.
One of these questions was posed to me lately: “Does there have to be more to life?” At first, my reaction was one of shock—how can one live without more than everyday mundane things? Life has to be more than our mere day-to-day existence, doesn’t it? I think that I would lose all of my bearings if there wasn’t more to life than the now. There would be no reason for me to wake up in the morning. I feel as though I need meaning in every moment that I live.
But then I looked around.
A family shared a meal and laughed as they recalled memories of the past. And they were happy. Content. Satisfied. Children played for the sheer joy of playing, with no purpose behind it, and they were happy. Content. Satisfied. Grown men fished on the edge of a river, not involved with anything but the simple pleasure of the moment. And they were happy. Content. Satisfied. A mother nursed her infant, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. And they both were happy. Content. Satisfied. None of these activities involved a greater purpose than the activity itself. No major earthquake, no life changing occurrences, just everyday moments.
How could I reconcile these observations with my need for deep meaning in every action, my thirst for purpose and sense of destiny? Does a sense of destiny really gives more return to life? Would it be satisfying to live life with no deep purpose? Would I feel emptiness, or guilt?
Is what I see really all there is to see?
My mind was being stretched.
As I tried to wrap my mind around these questions, I thought of layers. Maybe there are layers in all that life offers—layers built on other layers that have already been established. Like a chocolate cake: you can’t put the filling if the bottom isn’t already on, and the icing can’t be spread unless the cake has been built.
I often see an old man sitting on his porch, just looking out on the horizon. Same scene every single time I go by. This is the layer called “enjoying the simple joy of the moment.” If I stopped right there, I might be tempted to judge this old man’s life as shallow and unproductive. But if there are layers in all that life offers, then maybe there are many layers underneath this top one I see. One of them might be called, “surviving the death of a child and learning to take each hour as it comes.” Another one might be “living fully involves learning to sit quietly and enjoy the presence of God.” And this reminds me of a saying that a wise friend of mine often says, “You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Layers might be the key as I attempt to answer the question, “Does there have to be more to life?” I personally cannot imagine living without a meaning beneath the surface of everyday tasks. But I reckon that I don’t need meaning in every activity of my day. I simply need a sense of destiny at the bottom of it all, a purpose that all other layers are built upon. Like a girdle that holds it all together.
I love and hate the fact that I don’t have all the answers. I love and hate it when my brain is stretched like plastic wrap. But one thing I know: it makes me feel alive! And it produces growth.