That was IT ?! This was her birthday speech?
The Birthday Speech was a long-standing tradition on the team I worked with where we shared with everyone what we learned in the last year.
It had become quite the event, with folks even bringing in poems and inspirational readings. It was always uplifting and we all tried to be profound (when we weren’t trying to get out of it).
Now, the gauntlet had been thrown down.
Life Is Empty and Meaningless.
We looked around at each other, quick sideways glances. Surely she must be joking! A few nervous twitters were heard.
Maybe she’s just a little depressed on her birthday?
She can’t mean this, not really. We love her, her life has all kinds of meaning! Should we be worried?? Meanwhile, there she sat, serene and looking faintly amused at the head of the table.
It’s true, she said. Life IS empty and meaningless.
It is WE who take it and decide, for ourselves what our own lives will mean. There isn’t really a set of rules or a blueprint that you follow, or some book somewhere that is going to tell YOU what YOUR life means. You just have a big blank sheet, and probably a LOT more freedom that you realize or could ever be comfortable with, to create this life however you want. To make it mean whatever you want.
How do you deal with the responsibility, and gift, of having a whole life to create, or to fritter away? It’s funny really, when you stand back and look. I think life scares the heck out of people. We live in a world that is doing it’s level best to keep us occupied so we forget about our choices and forget to live. (I mean, what would it do to the economy if we were actually content and fulfilled?)
I had a reader contact me last month who told me she took her TV out of her entertainment room. She said it was a small step. I think that was HUGE! I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that? I know several folks who have had some portion of their lives planned around their favorite TV shows. I’ll admit it, Jon Stewart ends our day here. It feels “off” somehow when we bypass him.
I’m not here to pick on TV (where is the challenge in that?), but it’s a fine illustrative point. It’s VERY easy to go on automatic pilot, filling our lives with all the clutter, the TV shows, the stuff we have to buy because it was on sale, the junk mail we stack up that clogs all kinds of space,the e-mail jokes we send to each other that makes us feel like we are communicating when actually we haven’t at all…and don’t even get me started on my blogging jones!
So why do we embrace clutter? (Yes, I said embrace.) I think it’s because it protects us from the fact that life IS empty and meaningless. (Note: I didn’t say YOUR life or MY life. I simply said LIFE.) It keeps us safe from the responsibility of really living consciously and deliberately and making this trip worthwhile. We keep ourselves distant from ourselves and from each other with our busyness and stuff.
Note: I didn’t say that ALL activity, including blogging is inherently clutter, but you know darn well that some of it is. We don’t always separate the wheat from the chaff.
I’ll confess, I’m not always good at this, myself. It is scarey how many hours I can lose in front of this computer. I have developed a nasty habit of turning it on over the weekend, breaking a vow to myself that I really need to reinstitute. It’s sooo easy to feed one part of oneself (a hungry, curious mind, for example)and get out of balance without even realizing it. If we don’t keep conscious of the reality that our lives are non-renewable resources and choose our activities consciously we can accidentally lose an awful lot of ourselves to bright shiny objects that don’t amount to much in the end.
We have to practice discernment and choose for ourselves what will have meaning. What is relevant and worthy of the time we choose to give over to it.
In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Roark, an architect, is meeting with prospective clients who are telling him what they want, or, more accurately, what they think they want due to cultural and societal influences. Roark, is quite outside the mainstream so he’s been offending the sensibilities of the community. Well, as he is listening he draws the conclusions “There is no such person as ‘X'”, (meaning they are just an empty container filled with all the opinions of their friends and society.)
That’s a pretty sobering thought. What IS filling your container? WHO is filling it? YOU or someone else? Do YOU exist?
You used to be an empty vessel. So did I.
You, and I, have been filled to overflowing with many, many messages about what it takes to make it in the world. What we need, what we should want, what is appropriate, or not for our behavior, for our goals, for our needs, for our desires. It’s VERY hard to clean that stuff out. I don’t know how possible it is to clean it ALL out. Some of us have a hard enough time keeping the tops of our desk clean!
So, if my friend was right, and I tend, at this point, to think she was–if life is empty and meaningless–it is up to you to create something with the portion you have given.
Make sure that you exist.
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