"The world has been turned upside down for so long, it is almost impossible to believe anymore that the meaning of life is not about doing. The notion that it is about being--being caring, being interested, being honest, being truthful, being available, being spiritual, being involved with the important things of life, of living--is so rare, so unspoken of, as to be obtuse. We don't even know what meaning means anymore." So writes Sister Joan in our chapter for today....
Hmm. I am inclined to agree.
And yet, all of those things she mentioned as belonging to the category of "being" are things that we are/become by "doing." In other words, I don't know what it means to be honest without doing the truth in relationship; I don't know what it means to be caring without giving myself to acts of caring and compassion. "Being" is always derived from what we actually do in and with our lives. Perhaps we struggle most with meaning when our doing becomes disconnected from any sense of meaning. All our doing while meaningful to a certain level, fails to contribute to a sense of purpose that adds up to something. We no longer have a sense of a "whole"--we just have a bunch of parts that don't seem to add up. When that sense of the "whole" is missing, we feel a hollowness.
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor, once said, "Ever more, people today have the means to live but no meaning to live for."
Last night at our Ash Wednesday Service I recalled one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "When skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed." Sister Joan says that our frenetic lives are symptomatic of our avoidance of this question of meaning.
Maybe we should stop asking people right off, "What do you do?" How about a question like, "What matters most to you?" Of course, we would probably find out a lot about that person does...but it would give us much more insight into who that person is.
On one occasion, Jesus was asked what matters most. The form of the question was, "What is the greatest commandment?" Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, AND," (he couldn't just give one), "Love your neighbor as yourself." How informed is all our doing by a conviction about what matters most? How much do we even dwell on the question of what matters most? Perhaps it's time to test the ice.