Friday, February 24, 2012

What's the Take Away?



Okay. So I lied. I’ve written before that I don’t get all the hype about the meaning of life, that I don’t understand what all the confusion is, that I believe life is just about taking your very best and throwing it out at the world every day in order to make that world a better place. I’ve promoted the notion that we’re not here for ourselves, but for others, we’re here to foster change and growth, to make the most positive impact we can with the limited time we’re given, to give and to love and to show kindness and compassion every chance we get. I’ve spouted off about all of this in almost every essay I’ve posted to blog. I’m thinking now that this might be a load of shit.

What if we’re not here to love or to show compassion specifically? What if our mission is not necessarily to go spread hugs and smiles and offer a hand up? What if it really doesn’t matter if we ever serve up soup at the homeless shelter or help a child learn to read or if we crochet scarves for victims of domestic abuse? What if why we’re here is not exactly about the world or our communities or our families even? What if what we CAUSE to happen while we’re here isn’t the point? What if the point is what happens TO us? What if the point is not in the doing, but in the being?

Grab your book bag and play along for a minute.

I always wonder why some people repeat the same lessons over and over. It’s like life is offering a free class and they are totally failing, like they have been messing around while the professor is talking, not taking notes, checking messages instead, or just skipping lecture altogether. They know they will have to repeat the class, but still they continue with the same ineffective patterns. I’m always surprised when I hear someone in this situation say, “I don’t know why this always happens to me, why I always get into this sort of mess.” I’m thinking she should take a few notes and actually study for the exam next time, pay attention in class maybe. I think repeating the lesson is life’s way of hitting us over the head and saying, “Wake up! This is important!! There is a lesson to learn here, and you need to get this before we can move on.”

I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my life. I’ve seen dead people. I’ve seen some people actually die. Not all of those people were old. Some were not old at all. When I was six, I came close to dying myself. But I don’t count that because I really don’t remember it. I’ve watched two houses burn. Two houses that I sat playing in just a few minutes before. I’ve experienced the negative consequences of poverty firsthand. I’ve been hungry when there was no food. I can remember seeing nothing but a bag of flour, a gallon of milk, and some old bacon grease kept in a coffee can on top of the stove and then somehow my mother would make a dinner of that. No child should ever be without food. I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my life. I like writing on bad things. I think bad things are lessons.

I like writing on things that other people won’t talk about, on things other people don’t want to look at or acknowledge or discuss. I think they feel that if they don’t look, it’s not really happening or that if they don’t talk about it, it doesn’t really exist. The truth of it is that bad stuff happens, bad stuff happens to good people even. Acknowledge it or not, but as a child I was cold and I was hungry and I was lonely. You can’t pretty that up. I was lonely because I changed houses as soon as I had a chance to make friends. I was a smart girl, but even a smart girl has trouble focusing on school when the heat has been shut off and there is no food in the pantry and her parents have spent the evening yelling at each other about money. She wants to make them stop. She wants to shut her ears so that she cannot hear. She wants to not be where she is. She wants a regular life like the other kids. I loved my books. I did, but I was getting a lesson at home that was much more important than reading or science or math. I was getting a lesson in kindness and compassion and love. I couldn’t see it. At the time I thought I was a getting a lesson in degradation and misery and humiliation.

I am big on the take away. I ask myself, “What can I learn from this? What am I to take from this situation and use in my life?” I don’t believe the bad things in my life happened for me. I believe they happened so that I could better understand others in similar situations, so that I might take something from the experience and use for the good of others. I think the bad things are gifts. They don’t look like it at the time, but I truly believe they are.

And that brings me back to the meaning of life. I’m not sure anymore that the point of living is to help others. I think that’s just the by-product. I think the point of living is to learn, to learn what it’s like to be poor, to be an addict, to be hurt, to lose someone we love. I think the point of living is to learn, to learn so that we can better understand the life of another, so that we feel a connection, so that we know what it’s like to be them, so that we then can throw our love and compassion and kindness and gifts in complete and total sincerity out to that other. I love you, and I want to help you because I AM you.

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