Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday Musing: Big Questions . . .

How much of life do we take for granted? As I look at the harried lives that seem to be more the norm than not, I have to raise one of the really big questions of life - "Is this all there is?"

This morning about 300 people boarded a high-speed ferry boat from the central New Jersey area to Wall Street near Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Today was the first day the ferry was back in service since Superstorm Sandy devastated this region two and a half months ago. The folks riding that ferry, scheduled to dock at about 8:45 AM, were all commuting to their jobs. Little did they know that more than 60 passengers on that ferry would be carried off the small ship on stretchers, backboards and gurneys. Most of them would be treated for non-life threatening injuries, but at least two of them, one especially, will most likely die in the hospital.

Just before this past Christmas a few hundred children went to school just like any other day. Their parents were managing their busy lives and going about their daily routines. Out of nowhere, a young man, who had never been a threat to anyone before, ends the lives of 20 innocent children and seven innocent adults (all women, interestingly), including his own mother and then takes his own life.

The list could go on, but you get the point. It could be a sudden and violent event such as those described or it could be being handed a pink slip and notified that your services are no longer needed by your employer of, perhaps, one or more decades. It could be finding out your house is underwater and you can no longer afford the payments and it goes into foreclosure. It could be a medical diagnosis that wasn't expected. Perhaps, you're handed divorce papers that you weren't expecting. 

All of these bring about the Big Question - "Why?"

There are lots of big questions to consider in life, but do we? Are we too busy to deal with these questions until something transpires that forces us to face one or more of them? Do we take too much of life for granted? Do we have the attitude that something like this will never happen to me? Are we just avoiding the Big Questions because they seem too incomprehensible? It's probably some or all of the above.

What are some of the really Big Questions we never seem to want to or get around to addressing? Here are only a few to ponder:

What is love REALLY?
Am I really in-love or am I still in-love?
Why am I really working at this job or for this employer?
Am I or what does it take to be a good parent?
What does freedom, especially personal freedom, really mean to me and am I really free?
How do I define happiness and am I really happy?
Why is life so complicated?
Am I prepared to die, especially since I don't know when that may happen or under what circumstances?

I have created a long list of Big Questions and these are only a few of them. I was inspired to think about this by my friend, John Applegath in Durham, New Hampshire and author of the book, Working Free: Practical Alternatives to the 9 to 5 Job. John posed these questions to people in discussion groups in the Durham and Portsmouth, New Hampshire area.

Why do most people reach a point in their lives (and it's possible all people reach the point, some may just be too busy to even realize it) where they ask the question that I posed at the beginning of this musing - "Is this all there is?" Some of you who are old enough may remember the song, sung by the late Peggy Lee, that asked this question. This point in time is also considered a "mid-life crisis" and some people have more than one of these events. 

I dare say that the Big Questions are the questions that really define life and who we are and who we become. I'm not sure that there are any concrete answers to most of the Big Questions. Maybe that's why we are either afraid to ask them and seek answers for ourselves. Or, we choose to avoid them because in the business of the day to day routines and ruts of life we don't have time to incorporate "truth" for our individual lives into our lives.

To truly live free these questions need to become part of our self-dialogue and our dialogue with others who may be able to shed light on aspects of life we can't seem to grasp. It is my firm belief that we all need less than we have, can live simpler, less complicated lives than we do and ultimately achieve a better understanding of what this very short period of time  - birth to death - is really all about and how to get the most out of it.

Just saying . . . 


Melissa West said...

What a great post! Thanks for your wonderful insight!

I feel only life and the experience we gain from it can lead one to start asking these big questions. When people are young they don’t question as much because life hasn’t tainted them yet. Experience is the only way to gain insight to many of those questions. Some people never ask these questions because one life hasn’t been that bad or two they truly lack the ability to ask such questions. Not that this is a bad thing. I also feel that those big life experiences are sometimes needed to “wake us up”. Everywhere we turn we are ask to “sleep”.

I agree there are no solid answers to those questions simply because life always brings change and as individuals we always evolve from changes. So my answer for such questions may be one thing now and something entirely different two years from now. I also think freedom means different things to different people and all these individual meanings for freedom are right.

My answers to your questions ☺ Sometimes its nice to see how others answer big questions.

What is love REALLY? Love is a word used to express and feeling/emotion. Love has many layers and like all things evolves with time. Love is sacrifice, affection, compassion, understanding, and something one feels that can’t always be define or have words to express it.

Am I really in-love or am I still in-love? This is more complex considering that I feel love has many layers. I think one could even ask has loved changed not gone away. Have I gone from romantic love to something less selfish? Is being in-love and loving someone the same? The questions go on and on. I do love though.

Why am I really working at this job or for this employer? This one is easy. I need income and jobs are very scarce in my area. If I had somewhere better to work I’d be there. For now I bide my time. I have a plan.

Am I or what does it take to be a good parent? Luckily I have made the educated decision not to have kids. I can skip this one.

What does freedom, especially personal freedom, really mean to me and am I really free? Like love freedom has many layers. It is also a subjective word. Freedom is when one can say what they want, do what they want and live how they want without others impeding on this desire. Freedom is an illusion but a wonderful idea. I think one should still strive for an acceptable amount of freedom because one may not be able to gain 100 percent freedom but try anyway.

How do I define happiness and am I really happy? Happiness is not found it’s made. It’s finding out how to make it that’s hard hah hah. Happiness to me means contentment and peace with oneself and environment. Doesn’t happiness have many levels also? I’d say I am 60 percent happy.

Why is life so complicated? Because that’s just the way it is. Its up and its down, it’s a little to the left when it needs to be on the right and so forth. Humans are complicated beings. I don’t contemplate this one much. For me the why doesn’t matter. It’s learning how to contend with it that does. If one can cultivate peace of mind internally, life’s complications are not a problem.

Am I prepared to die, especially since I don't know when that may happen or under what circumstances? This is another thing I don’t contemplate much. Death is the only guarantee we get in life. I will die its going to happen whether I am prepared or not. Personally I hope I don’t know when its going to happened or under what circumstances. However things such as cancer and other illness make an individual way to aware of how much time they have on this planet. I think the problem is when people want to run from the idea of death. Face that you and people you love will die. It’s going to really suck but there is nothing one can do about it. And if you can’t change or fix something then worrying about it will only cause un-needed stress and anxiety.

Well there's my two cents :)

Sorry for the long reply!

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thank you, Melissa, for your thoughtful and insightful commentary.

We're traveling the same "dirt" path that you mentioned in your opening post on your blog. I'm hoping to get some dialogues going on my Yahoo Group - Live Free And Happy, along these lines.

I've taken friends on retreats and introduced them to this idea of Big Questions and after spending a week together, even though we've known each other for years, we got to know each other at a much deeper and meaningful level. We didn't all agree, but we agreed to disagree and leave it at that. We arrived as friends and departed as better friends.

I applaud you on your decision. As you've no doubt read, I made mine about five years ago and have been living free for a little over four years now. I can't see ever going back. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt and refuse to wear it.

I'll follow your adventure and cheer you on.


Melissa West said...

Its amazing when you can find a group of people who can express ideas and communicate without judgment or an attempt at conversion to their view. You are lucky to have made those friends!

I am reading and enjoying your adventure. Its inspiring and confirming to read your blogs and others like it. Cheers!