Stephen, this is a wonderful creative approach for a New Year’s “to do” list, or for that matter an everyday kind of looking ahead list. And it reminds me of what we were talking about in discussion concerning Christmas reflections earlier in relation to seeking life’s meanings in the face of tragedy. In other words, going down deep inside and addressing some of the big questions that are driving us we may not be aware of and attempting to ferret them out and understand them.
I had several of these issues confront me in the last few weeks and began to realize something else was in play in the things I was seeing and experiencing that was trying to tell me something and I needed to listen. One was the sense of recurring themes as the Christmas season has now turned into a sort of reflective period where I attempt to become aware of anything that moves me emotionally and I ask myself why it does so. The last two years several movies kept coming across my radar with powerful emotional resonances that forced me to look inward and ask myself what it was that kept pulling at my sleeve, sometimes quite profoundly by reminding me of past painful experiences, while others had relationships to outward more interpersonal connections to my everyday life and made me think in terms of: things left undone, unaddressed, or yet to be discovered. And as these different issues began alchemically to cook and conjure up things I had not considered or thought of my perspective began to see things in a way I never had before.
Over the last few years since I retired, I’ve trying to go over my past and ask myself: “Have I done the things I wanted to, needed to, and felt gave my life meaning and purpose within my own context? And of course, there are going to be surprises when you ask yourself these kinds of things because life as Joseph reminds us, is not a dual “either or proposition”, and whatever meaning or purpose you give to it is up for you to decide. Or put another way, life doesn’t have a meaning it just “is”. And one way you can see this is with the symbol of the ouroboros, (a serpent that eats itself), or yet another with the message of the Buddha’s name- Tathagata: “the one thus come” or “life as it is”, and this (“isness” of existence), has nothing to do with a God, or a meaning, or a purpose, except what you bring to it.
Now we get to the psyche and getting in touch with what it’s attempting to communicate from your inner unconscious to your outer consciousness. And you can sense there is something going on inside that’s moving you, but that question is asking you to pay attention and you don’t really know what the question is. So, we start looking for clues, both in our dreams and in one’s everyday life that might point you in the direction the question is coming from. You and I were discussing “transformation” as one example in the earlier Christmas thread; and what was the answer to the question: “what would sustain someone in the face of horrific life tragedy so we could pick up the pieces and go on living?; so, a transformation of some kind is called for to meet the challenge that’s presented to us; like in the movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where George Bailey got to see what his life would have been like if he were never born and is transformed from committing suicide. (But now there is the question of where you are going with your life after that?) In other words, you’ve achieved passage of this threshold – where to next? Because as Joseph also reminds us life is a series of thresholds, and each has a passage gate you have to deal with in order to achieve realization.
So now this year a new issue popped up on my radar when the movie: “Bucket List” came up, and so back to my original premise which your post so eloquently addresses. And as I go down this list; (which I hope everyone contemplates); it gives me food for thought because it asks me the vital question: Am I really listening and paying attention to what’s going on inside and what my life is showing me outside? Bucket List takes two old men at the end of their life in a hospital room who are strangers to each other, both with a bad prognosis who take on a bucket list quest. Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson take you on a self-reflective excursion full of laughs, but at the same time you are always invited by the dialogue to consider your own mortality and asks if you have faced some of these issues as well.
One other issue surfaced that I have been thinking about for quite some time that was quite interesting was the understanding of impermanence. This one really got to me in an unusual way in that so many of us ask ourselves not only about legacy but about time. In other words, we ask ourselves: “What am I leaving behind that I was here?” What was my contribution, my gift, my story, and what does it mean toward the future of others?” And I got two answers; one was: “yes, it matters”; and the other; “not really”. The first had to do with one’s own sense of accomplishment and the relation of your life and its impact on others; and yes, I think that’s really important. But the other was much more difficult to pin down and put into words; and that’s the sense of timelessness and that nothing that exists can resist the power of change.
This was profoundly delivered to me in a most unusual way in the form of the landscape where I live; and how its former biographical landscape is not only being destroyed but replaced by an entirely new and very different narrative. (Taking a city and turning it into a convention and tourist destination would be the example here.) Not only destroyed, but the memory that informed it is now replaced with something like a fable-like fairytale in which very different commercial enterprises are being constructed to take their place. In other words, all the neighborhoods, landmarks, streets, and buildings are being torn down for newer structures with a totally different purpose in mind. So, what this means is that if someone has a family that has been located in a specific place for many generations or that a city has a legacy story that is passed down it no longer matters what that is because commercial and political power can alter any legacy or narrative at any time; because civilization is always: “a work in progress”; and nothing lasts forever.
So here is my point in relation to Joseph’s themes; the notion of legacy may have an outward physical symbol that can last for a very long time; but can also be gone in an instant with nothing left to show it was there or what it’s backstory was or what it had to say to future generations. For instance, even a graveyard; much less a monument; can have great meaning for those who know and understand it’s relevance to present and future generations; but “any legacy has to be kept alive” for it to have meaning and purpose for the present and for those who come after; (and that includes a myth as well). Last night for instance I even saw a special documentary about a dead language that was connected to Christianity for over 400 years that connected Islam to the Christian interpretation of God being taken out by a religious cleric who didn’t like what it symbolized. (It seems forever is not as long as it used to be.) I think Joseph mentions something about this somewhere, but I can’t remember exactly what it was or where I came across it. This is as close as I could get. In other words, existence is all about being in the “here and now”, and not necessarily for the ages. At any rate, I hope my humble musings were not too confusing to navigate, and I think your topic is extremely relevant right now; especially concerning Covid and the new normal everyone is having to deal with. Happy New Year to you, my friend!