Sunday, 29 August 2010

Looking Beyond the Obvious

Because our lives are so much built around impressions received from our five senses, it is so easy to go through life experiencing it merely on a superficial level. Why should we try to do anything else? After all, we are living a physical life in a physical world, so why pretend there is more to it than that? Surely simplicity is the rule we should follow? Why complicate an already complex picture by trying to imagine what appears not to be there? Surely the sensible option is to follow the adage, “Live, laugh and be merry, for tomorrow we die”? However, so-called simplicity can in fact be self-induced blindness. To live life with knowledge, acknowledging basic truths, is not to complicate it. On the contrary it makes life’s uneven tenor easier to understand and accept.

Some people live their lives superficially. Yet it seems that the shiftless, uncertain, unsettled stress that is such an integral part of life here in this age seems to afflict such people the most. They may have everything that money can buy, live in luxury wanting for nothing yet . . . Try as they might to live their sybaritic life of unconcern, they cannot seem to shake off a feeling of doom, or at the very least of disillusion, that haunts them at every turn. Why should this be? Is it perhaps because life is a great deal more than it appears on the surface? Could it possibly be that it is not the act of trying to grab the most enjoyment from life that is the problem, but the act of doing so selfishly, while refusing to accept the hidden agenda that governs us all?

I believe it is just a simple as that. Life is not intended to be a long round of suffering and deprivation, of moving from one crisis to another. Neither is it meant for us to go through the experience selfishly seeking only for self-satisfaction. Life should be a joyful experience for everyone and the more we share it, the happier it will be, although it will always have its ups and downs. Just as constant summer weather can be trying, to say nothing of bringing drought, we need the contrast of some wet or cloudy days even when these bring pain. Some people retreat into selfish introspection as a result of being hurt during such sombre periods, thinking they can thus avoid further pain and disappointment. They may achieve this objective but the cost can be great. In avoiding pain, they also avoid the joy and happiness that comes, often unexpectedly, from sharing with other people. It is as though they are drugging themselves against feeling. In such an anaesthetised state, they go through the remainder of their lives as if in a fog of unfeeling and increasing bitterness and isolation. How different is the reality from the expectation.

The old story runs, “Two men looked out from behind prison bars; one saw mud and the other saw stars.” We should look for the stars and not the mud. By raising our eyes to the heavens, we release our greatest gift, the imagination. As our eyes are lifted; so too is our soul. We begin to see beyond the obvious. We become conscious of the incredible beauty of the heavens, as well as the beauty revealed on earth by the gentle glow of starlight. We begin to feel that we are in some indiscernible way a part of the cosmos we see spread out before our wondering gaze. Yes tiny though we are when compared to the immensity of the heavens, we feel kinship with the stars and planets and suns. We belong!

In belonging comes the conviction that everything is meant to be; that if we accept the simple truth of interdependence and inter-relationship with all that is, we set ourselves free. Free from the shackles of materialism and self; free from what seems difficult and uncompromising in our lives; free to celebrate human life in its eternal totality. No longer is life merely that tiny fraction of it that constitutes earthly life but it is full and abundant and everything that happens to us is an important part of this totality. Thus freedom teaches us acceptance and humility. We learn to truly “love one another,” in the widest sense of that phrase.

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