gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Monday, November 17, 2014

the meaning of life.

a few weeks ago, i admitted that i don't know the meaning of life. it was tough, but i have to sleep with myself. no, not like that. we're just friends. however, i also suggested one should be sceptical about anyone professing to have answers to those really big questions like 'what is the meaning of life? where do we go after death? why heavy snow in mid november during global warming?' these are questions i doubt anyone can honestly answer from direct personal experience. at the same time, i appreciate great people who answer in the affirmative. how is that not completely contradictory? well, in fact it is. only, the pivotol phrase is 'great people' and i didn't say i would necessarily believe or understand them.

the poet rumi allegedly wrote: 'death has nothing to do with going away. the sun sets. the moon sets. but they are not gone.' i love that. i don't necessarily understand it, but he was apparently a great man and i love it. arthur schopenhauer once said, with tremendous authority: "after your death you will be what you were before your birth." wonderful. who knew? to me, that comment is ludicrous, really. it's like saying: "after you take a bath you will be as clean as you were before you got dirty."

on april 1, 1991, the dalai lama visited santa fe, new mexico, to visit a small group of tibetan exiles. while there, he wanted to see a ski hill and went to a resort in the sangre de cristo mountain range.during a meal, a young waitress with tangled, dirty-blond hair and a beaded headband began clearing the table. she stopped her work to ask the dalai lama: “can i, um, ask a question?” “please,” he said. she spoke with complete seriousness: “what is the meaning of life?” apparently there was a brief silence at the table.

then the dalai lama answered: “the meaning of life is happiness.” he raised his finger, leaning forward, focusing on her as if she were the only person in the world. “hard question is not, ‘what is meaning of life?’ that is easy question to answer! no, hard question is what make happiness, money? big house? accomplishment? or …” he paused. “compassion and good heart? this is question all human beings must try to answer: what make true happiness?” he gave this last question a peculiar emphasis, as the story goes, and then fell silent, gazing at her with a smile.

“thank you,” the girl said, “thank you.” she got up and finished stacking the dirty dishes and cups, and took them away.

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