Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Something? Or nothing? (12.13.08)

How do you value your life?  Your being?

One thing we know is that we will die.  That sets us apart as humans.  For a long time most people engage in the denial of death.  Some people live that way for a lifetime.  Others, even at a young age, perceive their life differently - as part of something more.  They even dedicate a whole life to that.  Most of us are somewhere in between.

Somewhere in mid-life, I began to reckon with death.  I was fascinated with geology - the passage of time.  I love the layers of rock.  I've pondered how mountains erode.  Wind and water and cold and heat and plants do their work.  And mountains wear down.  Layers of sediment build up under the sea.  The land rises and we see the layers of long-gone seas - in mountains.  All around us, right now, we're seeing the erosion of so much we took for granted.

Right now at the Cafe we're a pondering group, it seems.  Pondering the big ideas.  Asking the big questions.  Considering a shaman long dead, the value of her life.  And the value of her death and burial.  Watching civilization as we know it seeming to go up in smoke.  Peering ahead into the new, changed world that is coming upon us, unbidden but relentless.   

So, how do you value your life?   How do you value what is most precious but cannot last?  Does it affect how you live, knowing you will die?

TPM Cafe:  Serving food for thought

There's faith - in something or nothing. And there's doubt in between. Since something can't be proven. And nothing can't be proven either, we have a choice of (at least) three.
Even "faith" comes in many varieties. Many levels of what that means. Some think that means certainty. They go the way of fundamentalism.
I "believe" that people can have "access" to great "wisdom." It's there to be tasted in all traditions. The words must be savored and pondered until the husk is gone and the kernel has been consumed and may seem gone too. Beyond the "words" there is also direct access - in moments - to the same stream of wisdom that fed the words and keeps them alive for those who ponder deeply. Once the heart of wisdom is "touched" or you are "penetrated" and saturated, then you perceive that all the traditions flow from the same vanishing point - and there is no "inside" or "outside" - it's hard to describe.
You don't have to believe any of this. Doesn't matter to me. Because honestly it's all the same.

Those who sincerely ponder, whatever course they choose, if they act with compassion .... Peace.



I don't think there is a right way to assert value on something so priceless as a life. To try would easily ruin the value of what it really is.
Its sad that so many do it everyday.


Your life is that very assertion.
I mean... how you choose to live it.
I choice to live it as if its priceless
What choices then guide your living?
I read Samuel Clemens. And when I read Mark Twain, I feel I am with Mark Twain. I see what he sees and I hear what he hears and I feel what he feels. That is present tense. Not past tense.
I read Chaucer. He is communicating observations and perspectives of people who lived six hundred years ago. In the present tense for me.
My son called me last night and told me a story of the events surrounding a Christmas Party at his work. He pulled one of his old tricks and was thinking of me as fellow workers responded.
Maybe no one will read the tripe I write after my death, but my son will think of me at other Christmas parties when I am gone.
Many years ago, a good friend lent me "The Gypsies" by Jan Yoors. Fascinating read, he ran off with a gypsy caravan in his teens, and returned to them multiple times over his youth, absorbing their culture well enough to fit in, except for his (Dutch?) appearance.
In their worldview, no one is truly gone until the last person who remembers them has died.
Rain outside my window.
Who can see
water drops
on snow?
How do you value your life?"
Dangerous question to ask, of an iNtp at least. Another therapist did that to me once when I was much younger. She phrased it differently. "What is your value", is how she put it. She tossed the question out at the end of a session as homework so I had too long to think about it. Pursuing the question to its logical conclusion was not really very therapeutic, at least short-term.
If you step back and consider the evidence of nature, it is easy to see that Life is very important; life not as much.
Every biological organism whether animal, plant, microbe, whatever, shares two basic instincts: survive and reproduce. The sole point of survival (life) is to reproduce (Life) as best evidenced by annual plants that wither and die after producing seed.
We humans too begin to wither and die as our ability to reproduce declines. The entire cycle of nature is life in service of Life. Even our deaths are in service ofLife as we make way for the more fertile younger generations.
So it has been. So it shall be. Selah.
I am still contemplating the purpose of Life. You may have noticed we humans have in some ways managed to break free from the cycles of nature that still govern most species. So far it has been to our advantage. Who knows maybe we will find a shorter route to wherever Life is leading us.
I thought TPM was to discuss politics?
Good farmers always check the soil - before planting.
"And some seed fell on fertile ground..."
Mostly it is, but isn't it nice to break for a bit and get to know each other in other ways?
Thanks, Thera!
I'd say this is a vital question regarding politics. Politics is often defined as "who gets what and how much?" The way we choose to live our lives has constant impact upon that definition.
Great wisdom here.
Folks I am setting up cryo storage for myself and my wife.
I hate to think of what we will miss.
I SO MUCH want to be around when earth finally makes contact with E.T. Imagine the shock to the system of religions worldwide, and all the back peddling by those leaders.
I have left instructions to KEEP ME HOOKED UP TO LIFE SUPPORT forever, if for no other reason than to put the screws to the insurance company!
TheraP: I figured out how to http and didn't even know that it worked. I will keep studying so I can just put some red word in like the sophisticates. But what in the hell is :-)? You and Lisab and others use this and I don't get it.
smiley face!
Dick, I'm still not good at linking. I can't turn my links into red words yet. I'm sure there's hope for us, though.
;) = winking
:) = smiling
: o shock/surprise
As a child, I adored my mother to the point where I wanted to be just like her. Her favorite color was blue, so my favorite was blue.
As a teenager, I finally started getting closer to my father, through letters we exchanged after I moved with my mother and step-dad out of state.
I have a lot of both of their traits, and for the longest time, I enjoyed having those touchstones within myself. I was happy and content being just like either one of them at any given moment.
Only now in my 40's am I yearning to discover myself by examining and slowly shedding all the likenesses to others. Late bloomer, I guess.
Not having children of my own, I have no legacy to hand down, per se. Being a very solitary type of person, even with my own family, I don't think I run around creating valuable moments with others enough. But the people I've touched in my life, who have enjoyed my company, wit, whatever, it's them who make me feel I'll leave something behind when I go.

Thank you, LisB, for your contribution here. :)
Thank YOU for the excellent post.

If you don't have your own, the answer is here:
Religion in a box!
TheraP, your question is in so many parts, could you simplify it?
Lux, my friend, if we simply then there is no question, is there?
No question.
♬ ♫ ♪

If we "simplify" - there is no question.
My old teacher had achieved complete unexcelled enlightenment; he was truely a teacher of gods and men.
Yet he went to the meditation hall at the sound of the bell and he ate at the sound of the bell and he worked in the mountain fields with the other monks at the time of community work.
TheraP, only old Lux could have walked into your room fearlessly! You are very able!
Tonight you taught me. Namaste, my friend.
If it had been another era we might have wound up sharing a bench in a river pavilion, drinking yellow wine and singing poetry to a summer wind-blown moon! Hreb would be there too of course, the old tramp!
Charming thought, that.
I went to sleep thinking of this lovely image.
HMMM? Life =
The number of hugs, hate, smiles, frowns, laughs, outstretched hands in friendship and even the tears that they can produce.
But even all of that would be worthless if you didn't have another to share it all with...
Therefore the value of life is > 1 and increases exponentially.
That sharing aspect is so important!
I love James Burke. He was my introduction into introspection and is as relevant today as he was in the 70's 80's and 90's:
The Day the Universe Changed
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born --
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any way,
Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
- from the Metta Sutra
p.s. - regarding the above - don't forget to extend that kindness to yourself, too (whoever you may be, whatever you may have done, you are worthy of it).
And to our enemies.
Here's one I learned from a Buddhist monk:
May you be well, peaceful, and happy.
May no harm come to you.
May no difficulties come to you.
May you always find success.
And may you also have patience, understanding, courage and determination to meet and overcome all the inevitable difficulties, problems and failures in life.

I've become amazingly comfortable with just a *shrug* at what life is all about. As you age, your interests, outlook, and beliefs evolve and what I feel today is different than yesterday and I'm ready to see what tomorrow holds. Every laugh and every wail is a statement of "I am here experiencing life!" There is no meaning for all of us, but certainly many for each of us. I am at peace. All is as it should be.
I bow to your wisdom.
There are really two expressions of the value of life.
One is that which we all know intimately. The individual.
The other is societal. This second one is notable in how it varies so markedly from the first. The globally variable range of the degree with which societies value life is inexplicable relative to the individual. I've no idea how you might explain this dichotomy. I've never considered this before.
Why is there so little transference from the individual to the society? I can only think there is some natural law at work here that I (we) don't fully comprehend. I'm logically inclined to think they would be fairly close or normal to each other. However, we know that isn't true. The manifestation of the value of life varies society by society whereas it is a constant on an individual basis.
Or maybe thats wrong. A child or an elderly person doesn't individually posses the same ability to preserve his or her own life that an adult in their prime does. In that sense the value idea falls more in line with society. Of course, it destroys the assignment of 'value' as a 'property' we attribute to life. This places it squarely in the realm of natural law, accompanied by the vagaries and permutations therein.
I love it when people think out loud! You have given us much food for thought here.
Perhaps it merits a blog of its own. Think on that.
Individually doing this isn't very effective. That is, it is too limiting. Having multiple people engaged in a conversation is better because it gives the chance for a wider range of ideas to come to light.
I so agree. :)
We are engaged in something very important right here at TPM Cafe. We started doing some of this at The Muck during the DoJ Attorney firings scandal. But this is much better, what's happening here rightnow.
Having grown up and been raised in the very serious and dour religion inherited from many generations this is the sort of question that is present at all times for me. It is present not because I am necessarily a believer in the religion but because the question is vitally important and valid on it's own to each of us in relation to this world, to other human beings in the present and also both to those who have gone before and who are to come. I believe the context of our existence is important and that we have an ongoing relationship to the past, present, and future.
As Americans, this viewpoint has always been present since before independence. That is why the Constitution speaks in terms of forming a more perfect union "for ourselves and our posterity." The generation of the founders understood well that their actions had meaning and influence not just in their lives but far out into the future. Our lives too impact the lives of others today and in times to come far beyond the time we actually live. If we are not mindful of that we are still having an impact. One hopes that by being mindful, by caring about the impact of each individual life and of our collective impact in the present we can improve the human condition in some way.
One needn't have the Puritan heritage or be a child of The Enlightenment to think this way. Gandhi and King had very different origins and beliefs but each focused on the same goal. One needn't be a saint or a selfless devotee of a strict life regimen to help bend the "moral arc of the universe" more toward justice. Whether we do this in our individual lives or on a grander scale we achieve something of value, we leave a positive mark. All actions great and small matter. All kindness, decency, fairness, love, respect,courage, compassion, strength, suffering, joy, sacrifice and celebration contribute to leaving a positive mark. The reverse is also true, but I believe the power of love (for lack of a better catch all) is far greater.
I cannot say that I know with certainty or even have much insight on why we are here, how we "ought" to behave and live our lives. But I do have faith in the ability of human beings to choose a positive path, one that is ruled not be fear but essentially lived with courage, confidence and in loving service to ourselves and to others.
For me, life has to be more than a brief period of time that we inhabit our bodies and consume things until we die as lower life forms do. Having been given greater capacity and the ability to reason, it is our obligation to do and be more than that in my opinion. We owe it to ourselves and others.
And regardless of whether we have divine or cosmic purpose in our lives, as rational beings, can we not all see that whatever is going on this planet is a magnificent and valuable livng whole from which we are not separate and thus we would be crazy not to use the minds and muscles we have to preserve and improve it? If there is no other reason, we at least should keep the world and improve conditions for future inhabitants because we wish upon them the magnificent and wonderous experience this planet can be. That alone should be enough of a moral imperative for us all to want to leave a positive mark in the universe during our lives. I don't believe it to be so, but even if it is a losing or even futile proposition I choose to be on the side of mindful, positive action. If nothing else, I believe it to be a better use of what little time I've got here on earth. I figure we may as well make it count for something right?
Of course, that's just my opinion, my perspective and everyone else is entitled to their own and just as entitled to ignore mine.
One last thing I'd add is a quote I read often to myself because it comes from one far wiser than I will ever be:
"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.
Think of it - always."
- Mahatma Gandhi

oleeb, that is so moving! So good and true.
Please turn this into its own blog.
It's the kind of thing that should be shouted from the rooftops. And quoted by Obama. It is eloquent, powerful. It reaches right to the heart!
Well thank you very much for the kind words.
I look forward to the blog. Pretty please... :)
On your request, okay.
Where are you in the midwest? I'm a midwesterner myself... St. L.
Milwaukee - we have Ill between us!
Wow! I'm within spittin' distance of Milwaukee, and regularly do so in that direction whenever I see or read or hear anything from Scott Walker.
I LOVE Milwaukee! Home of Frank Zeidler and the "Sewer Socialists." "Once I built a railroad..." indeed!
I've lived here only for 21 years. But actually know one of Zeidler's daughters. I'm just sorry to have lost Barrett as a Congressman, when they gerrymandered us into Senselessbrenner's district!
Then again, I was sorry to lose Jim Moody when Barrett first ran for Congress. We could definitely have used BOTH of them in Washington.
Also, as an aside... I was in Sensenbrenner's district until redrawing of the districts moved me over to Tammy Baldwin's District. Whenever I voted before, I always voted a Write-in for Congress: "Mr. N.E. 'Buddy-Butt' Senselessbrenner."
You are hereby authorized to vote the same in my place, as Tammy definitely gets my vote now!
I may need to do that. But I'm hoping for a miracle!


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