"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Monday, May 08, 2006

The meaning of life

First off let me apologize for the pomposity of this post title: "The meaning of life", indeed. Hah! Like I could possibly figure out something philosophers, scholars, stargazers, and ordinary folk have pondered for millenia. It's all relative anyway: what's meaningful to one person may be absurd to someone else, depending on the culture of their homeland, their family, religion, or personal values, to name just a few factors.

So now that I have prefaced this with the realization that I probably have less than half a clue as to what I'm talking about, let me tell you what I think "life" means to me: being in the right place, at the right time.

We don't live on this planet in a vacuum; there are millions of other souls on the same journey with us. And what makes the experience meaningful, in my opinion, are the relationships we form with others, how we affect them, and vice-versa. I believe that at some point in our lives -- at least once, and likely more often -- we will be in the right place at the right time for someone else, and that will give our own lives meaning.

Let me give you an example from a true story I read recently involving a man driving over a lonely mountain pass in southwestern Colorado. It was late at night, weather conditions were poor, and there was virtually no one else on the road. As he rounded a corner, for an instant he glimpsed a flash of something out of the corner of his eye that did not seem right, and it bothered him enough to stop and go back to see what it was. It turned out to be another vehicle that had slid off the road and down an embankment into some large rocks and trees. The man stopped and ran to the car to find a severely injured young woman trapped inside the wreckage. She was only partly conscious, and told the man she had been there for at least an hour or more. Only one other car had passed by in that time, and they didn't stop because they simply did not see her vehicle off the road in the darkness.

There was not much the man could do for her; he had no medical training, and his cell phone did not work out in the wilderness for many miles in all directions. He offered to go get help, but they both knew it could be hours before any emergency personnel could get there; with the extent of her injuries, she would not last that long. So instead, she asked him to stay with her so she would not be alone. She told him of her family; she was Native American, and had been on her way to see her parents in New Mexico. She asked the man if he would deliver a message to her mother and father: she wanted them to know that she loved them, and that she was at peace and not afraid to die. She also gave the man other specific messages to pass on to her family. Not long after this, she succumbed to her injuries.

Even though it was some 400 miles out of his way, in the opposite direction from which he had been travelling, the man didn't hesitate for a moment. He drove straight to her parent's house and delivered the messages the dying woman had given him. Despite their grief, her parents took great comfort in knowing their daughter's final thoughts, and were very grateful to the man for what he had done for a total stranger.

In short, he was at the right place at the right time -- and I think this is what it's all about. At some point in our lives, something similar will happen to us all. It may not be nearly as dramatic as the above story, but it will be life-altering in some way for you or someone else. It may still yet await you, or it may have already happened. By some extraordinary coincidence, perhaps you have met the person who has changed your life, and it has resulted in children who would not have existed had it not been for whatever bizarre quirk of fate or series of events put this person in your path. Indeed, it may happen a hundred times; someone will need you, and you will be there for them, or some circumstance will change just by the fact of you being there that will profoundly affect another's life. We often take this seeming randomness for granted, but I think it goes to the fundamental nature of what makes us sentient beings, and hints at why we were put on this earth.

If that's not "the meaning of life", I think it's at least a clue.

Who will be in the right place at the right time for you?



  • At 5/09/2006 06:06:00 AM, Blogger Max and Me said…

    yes...i absolutely feel there is a reason for it all and including why we happen to meet the people we meet. :>)

  • At 5/09/2006 03:38:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    Kudos on this post, its very good. I agree... Life would be meaningless if it wasn't for our relationships with others. I think the "right place and the right time" theory is perfect. I often think like "if I didn't go here on this date, I wouldn't have met this person who wouldn't have introduced me to this person who helped me make this decision that changed my life in this certain way"


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