Monday, March 24, 2008

what it means to have meaning

my grandma sent me a birthday gift today in the mail and inside was a small book entitled "reflective moments." a book such a this is something she gives about once a year. this one joins others i have at home, the likes of which range from "great toilet jokes" to "contemplations on God." each time she sends one, she never forgets to autograph the inside and mark it in time with a date. i love that about her.

i decided to start out my day today by reading the nearly 30 quotes in the book, hoping to have a few of my very own (as the book promised) "reflective moments."

some of the quotes were neither here nor there, probably ones i've heard before or things that just, to me, sounded kind of...well, cheesy. others, however, really gave me pause and made me think. i picked out my favorite ten and sent them out in an email to a few friends in hopes that one or more of them might strike a chord or bring poignancy.

one of the quotes was uttered in history by marcel proust, a french novelist, essayist, and critic who produced a very influential work in seven parts in the early 1900s entitled "in search of lost time." proust was quoted as saying:

"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes, seeing the universe with the eyes of another, of hundreds of others, in seeing the hundreds of universes that each of them sees."

the reason this quote resonates so deeply with me is because i thrive on learning about people. i define both being connected to the world around me and being connected to God by my connection to humanity. knowing people's stories, striving to identify or at least be open to their experiences, laughing with them, crying with them, having compassion. all of these things together (not one or the other) make up how i give meaning to life.

i was thinking the other day about the film "into the wild" and how it had such a profound impact on me. while many people found it to be extremely depressing (and by plot and circumstance it was), i came away from the film being inspired. the events that transpired are without a doubt tragic in every sense of the word. not only are they tragic, but the way that christopher leaves the world is also tragically ironic. and here, in this tragic irony, is where i found my inspiration. his need to escape all that he knew and set out on a journey alone to find the meaning of life ultimately gave him the answer he set out to find...just simply too late. after denying identity, family, friends, money, and the world and being isolated from civilization in every sense of the word, tears came to his eyes as he took his last breaths, mustering up any strength he had left to scribble on to paper this untimely revelation:

life doesn't mean anything unless you have someone to share it with...

do you see the inspiration that this brings!? if i hole up, isolate, think i can live this life all on my own, everything that "means" anything to me will die with me and, by therefore HAS NO way of living on. if i share a story or a moment or a photograph or an experience with someone, they, too, take something from that and, in turn, become a part of it. my meanings take on new meanings. life is shared and passed on. we become connected.

now, i say all of this ultimately realizing that the proverbial question of "what is the meaning of life" truly has its foundation in Christ. however, if we LOOK at the life of Christ...on Earth...he lived AMONGST the people, he traveled, shook their hands, held their children, ate at their tables, desired to SHARE life with them. and THIS allowed him to speak truth into their lives.

if we are willing to truly POUR into others, meeting them where they are and allowing the LORD to be the one to do the work, not only will our own lives take on new meaning, but the things we learn will be magnified by our shared experiences.

when i re-examine the quote from proust above, i can see the Lord speaking so clearly through the words.

we don't have to travel to distant lands to have distant experiences.
we don't have to look to the poorest of nations to find a poor battered soul.
we don't have to live away from sinners to stay away from sin.

we just need new eyes...


Jessica said...

AMEN, sister! Seems like this idea is going around a lot lately... I'm so curious to see what crazy and amazing and beautiful adventures our sweet Jesus has for us RIGHT HERE!

Martha Elaine Belden said...

awesome post. and i was struck in exactly the same way both reading and watching into the wild. christopher's story stuck with me for a long time... that book really did change my life, i think.

and your post made me think of something john piper wrote about in desiring god (which i'll admit right now i never finished, unfortunately). he talked about how joy doesn't become joy, CAN'T become joy, until it is shared. that the fulfillment of happiness is achieved when shared with another. the joy of that that wonderful experience or beautiful sight is brought to fruition in either looking to your left and smiling at it with your companion or even in simply telling someone who missed out about the experience.

anyway... as a fellow people-lover... i love that this idea gets you as excited as it does me.