“A LIFE that is not reflected upon eventually loses its meaning and becomes boring.” Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now. 2006
Most of us carry on with our lives without really knowing the meaning of what we do. In today’s dog race to survive and, for the more fortunate among us, to land a better job or acquire the latest of modern conveniences, we often get into a rut and go about our daily tasks without really knowing what they all mean.
Without reflection or meditation we usually take it for granted that living is doing what needs to be done to acquire the means not only to simply survive but also to survive comfortably with a lot of extras. But because we can never do enough to get more of what we think will make us happy and contented with our life, we end up being busy yet bored and in some cases depressed and self-destructive.
Not until we experience a cathartic moment, like in catastrophic personal failure or loss of someone dearly loved, are we constrained to face ourselves and ask (Fr. Nouwen’s questions in Here and Now): “Who am I, what does it all mean, what is God trying to tell me, and how am I called to live in the midst of all this?”
Before Covid-19 got into our head, there had already been signs of meaninglessness in people’s lives. Purveyors of hate and fake news on social media are one. Drug addicts-pushers are another.
These are extreme cases; but even if you are just feeling bored, uneasy, or sensing the onset of depression because Covid-19 has disrupted your busy schedule of doing and having, it could mean you have never really reflected on your life and searched for its deepest meaning.
If so, then thank Covid-19 for giving you this precious time in your life when you can search for its meaning and escape numbing boredom, depression and self-destruction. A meaningful life is always livable under the most trying of circumstances. With meaning you are never lonely even in solitude. Without meaning you can be lonely in a crowd; you can feel empty in the midst of all your prized possessions.
One of the most helpful books I have read is Austrian psychologist Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” His belief in and search for its meaning made him survive the hell of a Nazi prison camp. The same helped me live through the hell of a military “safe house.” There are really no answers but one has to believe in and search for meaning to be able to move on and not self-destruct.
Food is a necessity to one’s biological life. To psychic or spiritual life, it is meaning; and since the spirit vivifies the body, when meaning is absent from the spirit the body simply tires or bores itself to death. For, as Socrates once famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”