Monday, January 14, 2013

A Life Unexamined


As Socrates was being tried for heresy he answered the charges against him with great eloquence; "a life unexamined is a life not worth living", he said.

How true.  As we sail through this life in the fragile vessel of "being",  we have a cornucopia of choices as to how we will live it.  I've known people who were as shallow as the last dying rivulet of water at desert's edge.  Their life spark exists for the material world;  how much money they can make, how many things they can own, how much power can they wrest and hold.  Often, they are the pretty ones, the smart ones, the fortunate ones who, like spring flowers, are lovely to look but whose shallow roots fail them when the searing heat of summer arrives.   When one speaks to them they are too busy formulating their next "bon mot" to listen to what you are saying, or how you are feeling.  Alas, they are also the ones whose "life truth" arrives to them so very late in life that they are left to despair at the vast emptiness of their lives.

These beings are lost in a sea of apathy.  They seek happiness and fulfillment in the next new toy, discarding with disdain the old toy that failed to bring them either.  As a farmer plows the autumn fields of husk, they too plow under all the old memories of those who sought to touch them in some meaningful way.  All the familial and fraternal figures in their lives are standing back stage but the "shallow ones" refuse to pull the curtains back; too many regrets and failures lurk behind those curtains.

Once it becomes clear that the life journey is nearing an end the "shallow ones" refuse to acknowledge it.  They fear death and the end of the precious "me".  They abhor the wrinkled brow, the crinkled eyes, the age spots and the rapidly diminishing juices of youth.  In a vain effort to avoid confronting the natural cycle of death, they turn and look back...down the life path they travelled and see only the discarded toys and human refuge they threw by the wayside.  Having never contemplated the idea of a spiritual life they see only barren wasteland in the confines of coffin or urn.

Happily, I have known many who live their life under constant audit.  They are focused outward and the empathy for, and understanding of others is so very clear.  When one gazes on their visage one sees first the richness of their souls shining brightly in their eyes.  They are not without fault.  They sometimes stumble and fall but, inherent within them exists the spirit and knowledge that they must rise to live again.  Their peripheral perception is vast; they are able to see both the ugliness and beauty of their world and make a daily effort to make it just a little better.  Like the mighty oak, their roots in life run deep.  They can withstand the mightiest storms of life and become even stronger.  They feel the pain of loss more deeply because, having given something of themselves to those who they have lost, there is a bit less of them left behind to carry on with their own journey.  When they do make the big mistakes they find a place of solace within themselves and examine closely their actions and their regrets.

Those with lives well examined will be well prepared for the end of the journey, and know that death is as natural to the life cycle as birth.  Having lived a life under perennial audit they will have resolved their failures and tempered the glory of achievement with proper perspective.  Having lived a life of sincere and honest contemplation they will have achieved the spiritual assuredness of their beliefs and will depart this journey with regret at leaving their loved ones but with the adventurous spirit that knows the soul endures beyond this physical plain.

Bless all of those who have stumbled and dared to get up and try again.  Bless all of those who, having lived part of their life in shallow soil, have now scurried for deeper purchase and stand ready to brave life's greatest storms.  May you be blessed with the solace and satisfaction of a life well examined.

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