In the hour of my death, would I regret that my life had no meaning? Should that be a regret, after all?
It seemed that some people—often those who offered sage advice about aging—advocated a search for meaning in one’s life. It was seemingly a noble cause. If you wanted to feel that you had successfully grown old, then you must find a meaning or a purpose for yourself.
I hadn’t done it yet.
I imagined the scenario at the end of my life. There I would be, my life blinking down to its very last moment. Would I be asking myself what my life meant? If I had followed the sage advice I would have my answer ready. My search for meaning and purpose would be over by then. If I had successfully aged, I would have found my meaning. Just before my life’s final blink, I would be able to answer myself: This was my meaning. This was my purpose.
Putting aside the question of whether, having discovered my meaning, I would be able to achieve it fully before that final hour, I had begun to question whether finding meaning and purpose was so important. In the end, who would know that I had found my meaning? For that matter, would I myself know that I had found it?
More important than finding meaning, it seemed to me, was choosing a way of being. A way of being was part instinct, part inclination.
Not being too mawkish about it, I chose a way of being that was motivated by kindness and appreciative of the kindness of others. It was a way of an open heart and an open mind. It was a way of seeking beauty and of finding joy in the beauty that I found. Beauty, I thought, was not just in the eye of the beholder. It was a shared experience, and being so it was so much larger than myself. Discovering how I could participate—exploring the extent of my own ability to create beauty—this seemed to be a worthy cause, a righteous purpose, even.
There was no end-point to this exploration, this quest for discovery. There was no meaning to be finally found. There would always be something that I could not reach. A way of being was not a goal. It was a process.
Some other stuff for later,
- 84This month, I have had the privilege of playing Neil in a community theater production of The Quality of Life, a beautifully-written, award-winning play by Jane Anderson. Neil and his wife Jeanette are living in a yurt on their property in the Berkeley Hills in Northern California after losing their…
- 72The English version of this post—Becoming Neil—was posted here on March 29, 2016. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de Becoming Neil. Me gustaría…
- 71Three years into exile, and I knew that I would become “old” soon enough. Maybe I was already. I hoped to be one of those people who enjoyed good health and a sharp mind right up until the end, but for many people, some sort of affliction came with the…