A Window is Where the Wall is Absent

The life impulse to express and to connect arises in me and in all of us. This blog is a celebration of these life impulses. Please feel free to join in the conversation or to just visit. There is a Family Photo Album beneath the posts so you can "meet" my family and I. Welcome!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The rapture of being alive" Joseph Campbell

The squirrel doesn't need a reason to live, it just does. The rose doesn't need a reason to be, it just is. The cloud doesn't need a purpose, though it has one.

Yet people- myself included- despair over not having a reason to live or a purpose in life. Just being- like the squirrel and the rose and the cloud- seems far too unglamorous to sate the human's yearning for meaning and significance.

Light existed for billions of years on this planet before the light sensitive tissue that evolved into eyes developed. Somehow the existence of light drew forth the evolution of life-enhancing organs of vision.

Without the prior existence of sound waves would the ear have developed, appearing as if out of nowhere over a vast period of time?

One wonders what other vibrations exist and what other sense organs or capacities might be teased into existence through the life-promoting laws of evolution. It seems unlikely that the five senses so far developed are the end of the unveiling of reality into the realm of perception. Who knows what vibrations now undetectable by any sensory neuron may someday be received by a new neuron of knowing?

Which brings me back to the strange yearning for meaning and significance stamped upon the human heart. Could this be the inklings of a type of new organ or sensory apparatus, akin to the first membrane of light sensitive tissue which had the glimmer of light perception? There is something precious about the unquenchable longing for meaning: it is an inbuilt compass, and not easy to read or follow. One detour or error in the search for significance is "the absurd overvaluation of fame" (Eckhart Tolle). Making a splash in one way or another (whether winning a Gold Metal or blowing up a federal building) and garnering massive quantities of attention from others does not confer significance to one's existence.

Meaning becomes a vital nutrient without which we languish. We become rudderless and stall in the course of our life without some sense of direction conferred by meaning. I've been there many times, and still find myself at times disoriented and directionless, unable to glimpse that elusive sense of meaning to navigate through the day.

Meanwhile I enjoy the squirrel, the rose, the cloud, and all of nature, and the people I love, and the air moving in and out of my lungs. And I find myself entranced by these words from Joseph Campbell:

"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."

I don't know the answers, but I wonder...and this sense of wonder itself is perhaps a vital sense organ, the sense organ that has come into being in response to the finest of all vibrations: the presence of mystery. A mystery which seems to be the very substance of every atom and the space in between. The sense of wonder is the deepest possible rapture at the sense of being alive.


Cindy said...

Wonderful! I am entranced from beginning to end. I'm here at the big house now waiting for Val to arrive home after her day job to begin her evening work of cooking like crazy, the girl loves to cook. I've got one of your journals sitting beside me that I will be typing while I keep Val company. The fire is going in the wood stove, the cats are near, (I have beer in the beautiful pink ribbed parfait depression-era glasses I bought from the antique store that Val and I use for drinking wine (and beer)). I look forward to the evening! Thank you Colleen.

Cindy said...

PS, I love that idea that we don't really know in what ways we are evolving and what that might mean for how we feel. And that we might be sharing a sense of need for meaning in life as part of similar evolution as the evolution of the senses. So interesting.

Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Cyn- I like the snapshot of your moment. I'm still wondering about the enormous amount of human suffering that results from not having a sense of purpose or meaning or significance, and I've felt this suffering acutely myself, as I guess most of us have. Working as a psychiatrist I see lives ransacked by this sense of pointlessness and it can even drive one to suicide. And yet animals never have this problem of existential malaise. It seems to me that activity unanchored by any deep sense of meaning or purpose or significance has a tendency to spin out of control, like the rapid consumerism now engulfing the planet. Contentment comes from recognizing a profound significance in the smallest moment- something like your beautiful snapshot of the pink ribbed parfait moment. Maybe it can't be put into words (maybe the best things can't be put into words) but it can be felt in the moment of quiet openness.

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