Friday, June 15, 2012

What Gives Life Meaning?

The question was posed to me last week, "What gives your life meaning?"  I immediately thought of the typical Christian answer (upon which I won't elaborate), but what struck me was that the answer revolved around me and what I wanted to do with my life ("Obviously," you are likely saying).  I think if you asked any Western (and especially American) Christian, you would receive a similar response, though the specifics would be different.

Why this seemingly obvious response stood out to me - rather profoundly, in fact - is because it had little to do with community, with being a part of something bigger than myself.  It removed myself from the context of the community and relationships in which I live, to determine meaning based solely upon what I did with my life.  And that bothered me.

Imagine your favourite song.  Picture yourself as one note in that song.  Do you only like that one note, or do you like more - the lyrics, the chord progressions, the rhythms?  If it is your favourite song, chances are you like everything about the song and not just one single note.

When we focus on our individuality too much we lose sight of the whole song, so to speak; we care very little about the notes that came before us (setting the stage for our turn to play) or the notes that will come after us (and our responsibility to those notes). We take ourselves out of the context of the song as a whole.  I would like to suggest that our life actually loses meaning and significance when we do that.

In truth, what would give my life meaning is to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that I am a part of but could never accomplish on my own.  I see myself as one note in a grand symphony (with God as the conductor) which began when the world was created and will continue long after I am gone.  I have a part to play, yes, but it is in relation to all that played before me and all that will play after me. 

Is this mutually exclusive of a Western Christian mindset?  I don't believe so, but it might require us to loosen our grip on our individualism.  One note, or part of an amazing song?  What gives your life meaning?

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