Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's Life About?

We wake up. We go to work. We come home. We sleep. The next day, the cycle continues. Is that what life is all about? No wonder kids are bored. Toys and games may distract us for a while, but even then, we will sooner or later reach the inevitable: Boring.

Is it something to do with the activity itself? I think of last year's run to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. On the weeks leading up to the final game, the whole city was alive. People were wearing Canucks jerseys, cars were flying proudly the flags that symbolized a Canadian team in the coveted Final. The mood was great, with many businesses scheduling their work around the game time. Even schools were actively involved. Strangers high-five strangers on the streets. Hopes and anticipation ran high. Until the team lost.

This same feeling happened again this year. When the Vancouver Canucks team got knocked out in the first round of the tournament, all the excitement and fanfare disappeared. Just like the electrical cord that gets sucked back to the vacuum cleaner upon the pressing of the cable retract button. Things fall back to normal speed and the daily routine of life. Boring.

A story was told of an interview with an avid mountain climber. This person spent years in training. Climb as many mountains as possible. After conquering one, set your sights on another. Schedules, trainings, preparations are all geared toward the next conquest which is higher, more dangerous, and more thrill. When asked why, the man replied, "We are never satisfied. As soon as we climb one peak, we're always unhappy until we can climb another."

Man's Search For Meaning

Like the mountain climbers, we too by default have been programmed to search for meaning and significance. Some find it in their jobs that provide opportunities for promotion or money. Others work on their careers simply to make ends meet. As the needs grow, so do the demand for more money to fund those needs. Even for the mundane routine of going to work, at least, one has a sense of doing something. After all, doing something boring is far better than doing nothing.

Is this what life is all about? Doing something better than nothing?

Mountain climber express their search for meaning through conquering mountain peaks. One peak leads to another. One climb leads to another. There is no stopping the climbing, just as there is no stopping the searching. That is why people who retire suddenly tend to become lost and listless, distressed and depressed. This is simply because they do not really know what to do with their lives!

One word aptly describes the state of us: Restlessness.

If we are honest with ourselves, many of us express this rest by seeking work, by doing things, or by planning to do something. Doing nothing is unbearable, unimaginable, unthinkable. We live lives of quiet desperation, so says Henry David Thoreau, a famous American philosopher. Aren't we all people living restlessly all the time?

Children feel bored with their toys after a while. Adults feel bored with their relationships. Many feel bored with their jobs. They all live lives of quiet desperation. Some knowingly. The rest despondently.

My take of life is this. Restlessness is a mark of the sinful man. No longer content with God alone, man tries to find fulfilment through all kinds of other things. The Bible calls it idolatry. That is why the first commandments spells out,

"Thou shall have no other gods before Me."

Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves three questions in order to reshape our perspectives.

  1. Do you know what satisfies?
  2. Do you know what satisfies us fully and surely?
  3. What are we going to do about it?

Hint: The answer is not religion. Neither is it secularism.


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