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.