Where to start when life's meaning is a doughnut
As I track through this journey, I know that personal energy (enthusiasm, passion, commitment, optimism) have a big influence on success. So I want to offer an insight in how I’m managing my energies, relative to my project.
I think it starts with asking myself, “What am I really trying to do here?”
If I get as close as I can to the essence of what I’m trying to do with this life, what do I have?
Most days, it’s a doughnut.
If I am honest with myself, the deeper I dig down through my motivations, the more I find that the centre is empty.
I want to write poetry, because I want to give beautiful things to the world, because I want to better the human story, because one day we will all be annihilated by a collapsing sun. Oops, I mean…
I want to bring people together, because I believe in the power of community, because the human that is supported is a human that is open to love, and because one day entropy will reduce everything to mush.
If the end is written, and if the end is the same no matter what happens along the way, does it matter what route we take to mush-town?
Bertrand Russel, one of the great lights of 20th Century philosophy said that every system of thought must make peace with this idea at some point. In a flourish that would make any poet blush:
“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Similarly King Solomon, under the pen-name Ecclesiastes, said,
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
In the end Solomon’s great wisdom suggests that, “a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own labour.” Effectively, “have fun and try your best.”
When one of the great sages of spiritual scripture and one of the great minds of rational thought agree on something, who am I to disagree?
So everything is meaningless. Great. Fabulous.
So how do I marry the creative inspiration that keeps pushing at my soul with the truth that everything created will be destroyed?
Giving up and sitting on the couch and eating doughnuts is one solution, but not a satisfying one.
So, using this blog as a forum to process my thoughts, this is how I’m dealing with it. What do you think?
First, I want to accept reality as it is, even celebrate it. Rather than “raise my lament against destruction”, I want to hold the thought that “impermanence is what makes creativity possible.”
That is, if everything that had ever been made was still around today, it’d be awfully crowded. There would be nowhere for a poet to sit in the sun and contemplate the leaves of a liquid amber tree.
The canvas of the cosmos has a self-cleansing mechanism built into it by design. This in turn suggests to me that God is more like an artist than an architect, and maybe existence exists only as a creative flourish.
I like this idea.
And if that is true, then there is space for this creative being of me. There is a role and a meaning that can be given to my life. It starts with taking my place in the audience – as someone witnessing and celebrating the spectacle. Let me then be a connoisseur of life. A gourmand.
But it also extends into the possibility of living as a co-creator with God. Even to be a stage-hand shuffling lights around back stage is an honour, to feel an ownership over, a sense of creative pride in, the great unfolding tapestry of life.
So let me devote my talents to this – to live in service to creation, and in service to creativity.
As Alan Watts said, life is not a ‘journey’ from point A to point B. Rather, we should “play” our lives the way one plays a musical instrument.
The interesting thing about the application of this meaning to your life is that then it gives you a guiding principle, bright as the north star – beauty. Creativity (at least as we understand it) is guided by the shifting aesthetics of beauty. We like making beautiful things.
And so in everything I do, let me nurture beauty. Let me create the conditions for beauty to flourish – in my work, in my joy, in my relationships and in my community.
And so as I take these first steps towards building this project and building this community, let me set this as a foundational guiding principle:
Let this project stand in service to creation, to creativity and to beauty.
And you know, let’s see what flows from there.
What do you think?
Will these guiding principles keep me from floundering on the rocks?
Where’s your starting point?
 Yevgeny Yevtushenko, ‘People’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtec3ZwLcTA
 I can’t recall or find the source of this quote. I think it was one of the Thai Buddhist masters… Help?