Okay, yes, that is a grandiose title for this piece. But, it's also something that is easily overlooked as we go about our daily lives. If a person insists on ignoring what is perhaps the ONLY question that really needs to be answered in this life, it can make life much more of a struggle than it really should be or needs to be.
The question, of course, is, simply, "What's it all about?" "Why are we here?" is another bold yet bland conundrum. The answer to this is not really complicated despite the fact that countless tomes have been written down through human history trying to do it justice.
But, in order to really arrive at an answer that feels adequate, maybe even better than adequate, we need to understand "who we are". And, that is a puzzle that is still resisting any reasonable solution. I am foolish enough to step forward and take a stab at it, however. So, here goes.
We are souls, spirits, who come here and take up bodily form in order to evolve, to learn something. I previously told here the story of a small boy growing up near New Orleans who was ultimately accepted as the reincarnation of a navy pilot who died during the battle of Iwo Jima. The book is, "Soul Survivor", and I strongly recommend it to anybody who is deliberating whether or not reincarnation is 'real' and if so, what does it say about us?
I also have had a number of personal experiences that have convinced me that the above is true. Of course, it doesn't help things that we are now living in a time when far too many people claim that the 'truth' is whatever they say it is. Honesty, integrity and honor are being pushed rudely aside by those who simply crave dominance over the rest of society and are willing to sacrifice the truth to have it. You already know who these craven idiots are. There's a whole cabal of them inhabiting MAGA land and their voices are being shrilly represented by almost every conservative politician and the shills on Fox.
May we set them aside for now? Please.
In 1972 I flew to Europe and landed in Paris with $200 in my pocket. I started hitch-hiking and was picked up in Luxembourg by a German who soon offered me a job in his cottage industry metal shop. We drove to his tiny village in the Allgau, a part of Swabian Bavaria that borders the alps south of Munich with the medieval city of Kempten in the middle of it. Herr Ingenier Eddie Dobermann gave me room and board to spend my days two stories below helping to build stoves that burned used motor oil. I opened my windows each morning on a view of the Alps right out of 'Sound of Music'. It was a magical time.
But, it was also speckled with experiences that repeatedly drove home the definite feeling that I had lived there before....in a prior lifetime.
This had actually started before my plane was on the ground in Paris. I looked out the windows over the coast of France and as I looked down on Normandy I knew I had been there....as a pilot. And, for the next three months, every so often, something else would happen to let me know that I had history there.
Prior to that time in Europe, I had experienced moments that definitely spun my head around and made me question, for instance, the un-shakeability of the time-distance continuum. Here's a single example: I was standing in the station at Princeton Junction, waiting for a train to Philadelphia. An express train to NYC blasted through at over 80 mph, and the station doors in front of me blew partially open and swung back and forth. Suddenly, I realized I had lived this moment before. Yes, a so-called, "Deja Vu". It would be utterly as easy as falling off a log to get all twisted up in metaphysical complexities and to render such minor experiences as useless.
I choose not to do that, however. I have taken all such moments and strung them together like beads. Then I examine the totality of them, as a group. And, what comes out the other side is the unavoidable conclusion that much of what this society considers to be 'firmly established', i.e. 'true', is not firm ground at all but a rather mushy swamp.
The take-away, for me, after seven decades of observing my life as it happens, is that we are not the creatures we have accepted as 'real'. Whatever you want to use for a label, i.e. soul, spirit, etc....we are entities who inhabit different host bodies. There is way too much evidence for me to retreat into the belief that we are just this lump of hair, teeth, meat and bones that bumbles along though life until we die. We are born, struggle to figure life out, and we must watch as our 'host' ages and finally "gives up the ghost". [Pun noted].
Some mystics insist that we not only reincarnate in different bodies, but that we spend time in the animal and plant kingdoms as well. Let me say, I have no recollection of being a cabbage, but my wife might nod her head wisely and give me that look, as if to say, "You fart like a cabbage, so..."
In the end, it matters little who or how many bodies you have had or are presently borrowing. What matters is learning. Learning what? Learning what MATTERS. And, that is how to become fully human. Yes, I know I have to explain such a bold comment. So, here goes.
What really matters in this life is leaning how to love, how to become a loving and compassionate being. It's not about how much money and 'stuff'' you accumulate. Watching the Russian oligarchs scramble to hide their super-yachts is comical. Apparently, if you want to be a 'real' oligarch you need to spend at least a couple hundred million on the fanciest and most outlandish, not to mention flamboyantly tasteless, boat. Yup. You need a big-ass fancy boat....preferably one well-stocked with scantily clad young women whose apparent responsibilities appear to be limited to keeping the billionaires 'happy', whatever that means.
The entire struggle for wealth, or the battle to either escape, or at least survive, the cruelest depths of poverty, is predicated on the idea that this defines us. Who we are is largely determined, in the minds of many, by how much and what we have. Sadly, my own life experience has suggested that a large majority of the very affluent are 'idiots and assholes'. That doesn't mean that there are not some very enlightened and good rich folks, not a all. It does mean that just because you have a ton of money, it doesn't make you a decent human being.
So, look around the vastness of human society and see if you can identify some souls...any souls...who are indeed decent and worthwhile people. Actually, there has been a plethora of 'systems' for doing this. Every major religion...and I suspect even the tiny, unknown ones....has a system of anointing saints, masters and prophets. It varies, but they all have channels for both identifying and honoring those beings whose lives have been marked by a great depth of compassion, of love in action. And, with minor exceptions, these systems are quite successful at helping us to know who is worthy of our respect and admiration...and of being emulated as examples of what a human is supposed to be and do.
I have actually been in the physical presence of a number of souls who fall into the 'enlightened' category. On a summery day in Marin County, I sat and listened to one very prominent Sufi master holding forth. Hardly noticed--at least by me--an elderly man was shown into the room and seated next to me, at which point I noticed that he was blind and had a very gentle presence. As the loud man spoke of sealing wax and other fancy things, this elder picked up my hand and held it in his in his lap. Shortly after he did this I felt an overwhelming sense of inner joy and tears began streaming down my face. When we parted at a later time, we merely looked into each others' eyes and nodded with a subtle smile.
This man had just taught me a life-lesson that would affect me for the rest of my life. And, he did so without ever speaking a word.
So, without further ado, here it is: The meaning of life is to become fully human, and love is the doorway to that realization.
If a person gets caught-up in the need to satisfy appetites, whatever they may be, and starts to think that if they can just have all the things they crave, it will all be fine.....they are lost. At least for the time being, they will wander in the forest as long as it takes for them to finally realize they have been chasing a phantom. Money, fame, power, houses, boats, planes....and people...are never going to bring a sense of genuine fulfillment. I have known far too many rich folks to believe otherwise. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is a greater degree of dissatisfaction and even a deep melancholy among those who do accumulate it all,...only to find an emptiness that is undeniably heart-breaking.
I watched a billionaire upbraid his twenty-something son for wanting a very expensive camera lens. It was easily affordable for this man, and yet, he was treating his son as if it was the request of a spoiled little boy. I felt a deep pang of sadness as I watched this. It was one more instance of seeing how the material world gets a hold of people and blinds them to what is really important. That billionaire is long dead now. And, I am guessing that he died never knowing what a great kid he had, and, likewise, his son must recall how unkind his father was..... and that is just tragic.
You can take this to the bank. We come here and take up bodily form in order to learn how to love.
And, as you look around the world today, at what is happening in the political arena, world conflict as in Ukraine, our assault on the planet's ecosystem, and our treatment of our fellow humans and all sentient beings.....it becomes apparent that the one thing that could heal and bind us together in a common purpose, is missing.
And, it's love.
By the way: if you really can't imagine what love is, I have two Golden retrievers who would be pleased to give you a demonstration.
Just a thought.