The Bare Essentials
Updated: Feb 6
I was lying in the tub enjoying hot water and a bath bomb trying to rid myself of the misery mood I've been in lately. Call it the Christmas Blues. I do. At any rate, a thought rose up out of the labyrinth that is, at times, my mind...
We come into the world with absolutely nothing; we're free as birds in their birthday suits. Then we spend the next several decades gathering, collecting and accumulating stuff like experiences, children, friendships, cars, houses, clothing, talents, worry, loves, books, enemies, knickknacks... It never really stops; our lives are an endless assembly line of amassment, gathering bits up and tucking them into our metaphorical pockets.
And then we die and what do we take with us? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. We are back to our birthday suits. Now there's a circle of life you can't argue with. Which leads me to ask the question: What's it all mean? Yes, that old chestnut. Human beings being meaning-making, it drives me crazy that I can't come up with a reasoned answer to those questions. Then again, maybe they are meant to just hang in the air as a sort of overarching query billboard.
I know there are schools of philosophical thought like nihilism or existentialism that posit there is absolutely no point to life, that our propensity for meaning-making is pointless in itself. Apparently, we simply exist, we simply are, and there is no great need to dig deeper. So why not live life according to our own needs and urges? Why concern ourselves with ethics and morals and values? After all, say they, it makes no difference one way or t'other.
Every fibre of my being rejects this notion however much, some days, I'd love to just go about my business without having to consider all the pros and cons, potential repercussions, or guilt over not being a "good person." Because being a good person is really hard work! So much to think about, so many rules to follow, so many people to not piss off or feelings to hurt. Exhausting. Hence, my soak in the tub to melt away some of those hard edges.
In my experience, there is so much evidence to support the idea that life has purpose. We are not simply procreating, anarchic beings free-floating through a physical existence with no meaning. To assume so is to take the path of least resistance. With no values or rules of civility to wade through, life would feel empty to me.
The older my mom got, the more stuff she gave away. If you happened to be visiting for the afternoon, she'd pull out a jacket or a pair of boots and offer them to you. The big purge for her was after my father died and she sold our enormous 3-storey Victorian home in the city after 30 years of family habitation. There was oodles of stuff crammed into every closet and drawer and room we had. We each got to take our favourite items and the rest went to auction. Mom took almost nothing with her, just the bare essentials, to her new 2-bedroom suite at the retirement home. After that, it was hard to gift her with anything tangible because she was done with the amassing stage of life.
I choose to believe that we live in a conscious Universe that is ever-expanding; hence, infinity. The more we do, learn, experience, and become aware the more the edges of the Universe are pushed further out. We are integral to the spread. Think of it as the biggest library (for the analogues) or database (for the techies) replete with every single meaningful moment of every single day of every single human beings' existence forever and ever.
I guess that makes the Universe the primo collector, gatherer, and accumulator of stuff so we come by it honestly. If we follow this idea to its logical conclusion, one would have to accept that because the Universe and all its collected wisdom is, essentially, us, the meaningfulness of our existence is freakin' vast and available for the taking. And sharing, and returning. A great big cycle of learning and educating.
I believe this is also the reason why brand new babies bring hope, falling in love feels light and intense, and grief causes us to ask the mystic questions. It's why story-telling is integral to every culture on the planet through all the ages. It's why you are reading my blog. Meaning-making is in our bones.
Which brings me to this: when we leave this life, what do we bring with us? Our life stories and the wisdom gained therein which we have shared with the Universe and added to the collective library of human existence for all to access at any time. Not sure there is anything more meaningful than that.