The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Books and Predestination

In When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough – The Search for a Life that Matters, Harold Kushner writes about the Book of Ecclesiastes. He says that of all the books in the Bible, this one is special and unique. The author of the book, says Kushner, is a man who was lost in life, despite all the wealth he had and all of his searching for knowledge and understanding.

This morning I arrived at Ecclesiastes’ conclusion near the end of Kushner’s book:

The wise old man who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes began by telling us of his disappointments. Neither wealth nor learning nor piety gave him the satisfaction of knowing that his life would mean something, not in his lifetime nor beyond it. But he did not write his book only to share his frustration with us nor was it included in the Bible to persuade us that life is in fact pointless.

My mind tells me that the arguments for the meaninglessness of life are overwhelming: injustice and illness and suffering and sudden death, criminals getting away with murder while good people die in shame and poverty. My mind tells me to give up my quest for meaning because there isn’t any.

If logic tells us that life is a meaningless accident, says Ecclesiastes at the end of his journey, don’t give up on life. Give up on logic. Listen to that voice inside you which prompted you to ask the question in the first place. If logic tells you that in the long run, nothing makes a difference because we all die and disappear, then don’t live in the long run. Instead of brooding over the fact that nothing lasts, accept that as one of the truths of life, and learn to find meaning and purpose in the transitory, in the joys that fade. Learn to savor the moment, even if it does not last forever. In fact, learn to savor it because it is only a moment and will not last. Moments of our lives can be eternal without being everlasting. Can you stop and close your eyes and remember something that happened for only a moment or two many years ago? It may have been a view of a spectacular landscape, or a conversation that made you feel loved and appreciated. In a sense it did not last very long at all, but in another sense it has lasted all those years and is still going on. That is the only kind of eternity this world grants us.

What is life about? It is not about writing great books, amassing great wealth, achieving great power. It is about loving and being loved. It is about enjoying your food and sitting in the sun rather than rushing through lunch and hurrying back to the office. It is about savoring the beauty of moments that don’t last, the sunsets, the leaves turning color, the rare moments of true human communication. It is about savoring them rather than missing out on them because we are so busy and they will not hold still until we get around to them.

When we come to that stage in our lives when we are less able to accomplish but more able to enjoy, we will have attained the wisdom that Ecclesiastes finally found after so many false starts and disappointments.

What’s especially striking about this passage is how similar it is to what Marc Gafni has been telling us. The Mystery of Love is about eros, about erotic living. It is about being fully engaged with life, about being “on the inside” of an experience, about embracing the fullness of presence. It’s about being connected with the world, being connected with your fellow man, being connected with life!

And this is also a theme that comes out of Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love You Want. From the time we were in our mother’s womb, there was a connection with the universe. But in the process of being raised by our parents and of growing up in a cold, heartless society, this connection was severed, suppressed, or otherwise beaten out of us. I refer you to here.

Kushner’s words hit home because I am beginning to experience them! I strive to be supremely relaxed and in so doing I can be more “in the moment” of my experiences. I am starting to feel a “connectedness” that has eluded me my entire life. I no longer obsess about wealth – the fact is, I didn’t really need to worry about money since the early 1990s when I owned my own home and I was debt-free. I am now able to let go of my logic – for too long, I’ve held on too tightly to my intellectual worldview. I am more in touch with my feelings.

Kushner’s words also imply erotic living!

I was at the World’s Biggest Bookstore yesterday and I sat down to read an excerpt from a book I found on the promotional shelves called Happiness Is, by Shawn Shea.

Shea writes about John Merrick, aka “the Elephant Man.” He says that at the end of his life Merrick claimed to be happy, despite all the suffering he endured – the constant physical pain, the continuing ridicule, the social isolation. Merrick found happiness in the everyday joy of discovery, of experiencing the awe of life.

I was moved by that story. John Merrick is an example for us all.

How propitious and serendipitous it has been for me to have encountered these books in the past six months – Getting the Love You Want, The Pursuit of Happiness, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, The Mystery of Love, Happiness Is. There seems to be a predestination at work here. (I resist the notion of this being a divine act!)

At any rate, I am being transformed...


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