Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

But now, Dorothy wondered: What was failure? What was success? Ribbons swirling in a cold tank. Life was not a story that ended on a resolution or a revelation. It was like this puppet show—a gentle, ongoing state of ups and downs that contained moments of illusory transcendence and ultimately built to nothing, no epiphanies, or so many epiphanies that they ran together and were forgotten. Maybe it breathed like a paper flower, expanding and contracting. Maybe it was something you did just to pass the time.

Christine Smallwood, The LIfe of the Mind (Hogarth, March 2, 2021)


Photo: Lily

Lightly Child, Lightly

Life should carry more meaning than the facts would bear. Which facts were these: we occupied a tiny corner of the universe, minor planet orbiting a minor star, in an even tinier corner of cosmological time. Still we wanted all of it, the sun and the moon and the firmament that held them, to be about us. This want had been bred into humanity, selected by nature, so it must have served some purpose once, but it had long outlived its usefulness… What was needed now was to know.

— Christopher Beha, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts: A Novel (Tin House Books, May 5, 2020)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When poet Donald Hall met with sculptor Henry Moore, he dared to ask if Moore believed that there was a secret to life. The response astonishes: “The secret of life,” Moore answered without flinching, “is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is- it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

Imagine the courage behind these tasks. By what sacred story are you living? What task have you set for yourself? Can you tell your life story, accomplish your task, from where you are?

If you’re uncertain, turn over in you mind philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s reflection that “religion is what we do with our solitude.” Where your heart wanders during those chambered moments will show you the direction of your true longing. We speak of God and geniuses and heroes and sacred sites, but these are only names for the ineffable mystery of the force behind something our souls long to be in touch with. No practical philosophy explains this urge. It is a force from the mysterious shadow world that may in turn long for us.

~ Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred


Source: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Portrait via Phil Cousineau

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels. Photo: Scientific American

Sunday Morning: Perhaps, that is enough.

While not a believer himself, Mr. Ruse harbors a great deal of sympathy for those who find ultimate meaning in the universe and their lives through worship. Taking his cue from his own Quaker upbringing, he argues that three things remain deeply satisfying in life, even if philosophically one ends up on the side of Epicurus and his denial of design: family; a life of service to others; and, not surprisingly for a philosopher, the life of the mind. For many people, there is indeed purpose in each of these, and perhaps, Mr. Ruse suggests, that is enough.

~ John Farrell, from his “Review: To What End is All This?” where Farrell reviews ‘On Purpose’ by Michael Ruse


 

Photo of Dr. Michael Ruse via Strange Notions

(My) Ordinary Life is Good

…Mr. Landau dismantles common myths and offers strategies to help people find greater purpose in their own lives. Systematically, he refutes the usual arguments as to why life is pointless: Since the universe is so vast and we’re so tiny, nothing that we do matters … no one will remember us; everything we do and treasure will one day perish from the earth. None of these deters Mr. Landau from his rational, philosophical argument for why each individual’s life is meaningful…

Mr. Landau notes that all such concerns are animated by the same mistaken belief: that a valuable life must necessarily be a perfect one. “According to this presupposition,” he writes, “meaningful lives must include some perfection or excellence or some rare and difficult achievements.” Those who despair of life’s meaning can’t see the value in the ordinary; only lives of greatness such as Michelangelo’s or Lincoln’s can be worthwhile.

As Mr. Landau observes, such perfectionism sets a standard for meaningfulness that is nearly impossible to attain. He mentions a talented biologist he knows who considers her life wasted because she didn’t reach the very top of her field. Perfectionism’s other, more odious, problem is its elitism: It assumes that some lives have more worth than others. Though clearly wrong, a version of this idea is deeply embedded in our secular culture. A meaningful life, we’re constantly told, lies in worldly success: going to certain colleges, landing certain jobs and living in certain communities. Mr. Landau doesn’t spell it out, but he seems to understand where this flawed assumption leads. Does the life of a child with Down syndrome have less value than the life of a healthy child? Is a retail clerk leading a less meaningful life than, say, Elon Musk? A perfectionist would have to say yes and yes. But Mr. Landau wisely points out that it’s cruel and misguided to hold ourselves or others to this standard for meaning, because it neglects each life’s inherent worth. […]

In “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World,” Mr. Landau presents a much-needed lesson in humanity and compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to achieve your lofty goals, he urges; instead, celebrate the value of an ordinary life well lived. In the same way you don’t have to become a monk or nun to be a good Christian, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare or Rockefeller to lead a good life. Holding your child’s hand, volunteering in your community, doing your job, appreciating the beauty around you—these are the wellsprings of meaning all of us can tap.

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book review titled “Review: Redefining a Well-Lived Life” of “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau (August 1, 2017)


Photo: Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand via Eclecticitylight. Thank you Doug.

 

It’s been a long day

wind

I don’t know. Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven: A Novel


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.


If someone set fire
To the whole night sky,
Would you ask “how?”
Or would you ask “why?”

~ the-real-void


Notes:

Why?

harry-belafonte

“I often look at the journey, and I don’t get it…I really don’t. I have lasted longer than I understand why. I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do… This is not modesty. This is part of a bigger search for me. What was all this about? Why?”

~ Harry Belafonte, Harry Belafonte Knows a Thing or Two About New York. The city native, about to turn 90, looks back at a glorious past and wonders what his next act will be. He was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., and dropped out of school in ninth grade, frustrated by what was later recognized as dyslexia. He was working as a janitor’s assistant when a customer gave him tickets to an American Negro Theater production, and when he volunteered to help as a handyman, he soon found himself onstage with Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Mr. Poitier.


Photo of Belafonte from Kate Wolf Music Festival

Every morning, even before I open my eyes

simone-de-beauvoir

Every morning, even before I open my eyes, I know I am in my bedroom and my bed. But if I go to sleep after lunch in the room where I work, sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement — why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other.

~ Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) in her autobiography, All Said and Done 

 


Source: Brainpickings – Simone de Beauvoir on the Constellation of Chance and Choice That Makes Us Who We Are

 

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