Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

The Meaning of Life

December 15, 2008

“Vietnam, gentlemen, is a very hostile environment!”  With these words, my PT instructor began my 23 year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.  They were intended to be motivational; to urge us on to put our backs into our physical training.  But they are metaphorical, too, and may as well apply to every stage and moment in our lives.  We are born and become worm food in privacy, for the most part, pretending in the public part of our lives that everything is hunky dory.  It isn’t!


Last night I shared cocktails at a “Leadership Weekend,” hosted by the Chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue.  It was lovely!  But to get there I had to walk New York’s crowded Christmas shopper filled streets for 45 minutes both coming and going.  Today I could not move from my bed I was so stiff!


Asked the “meaning of life,” Joseph Campbell once remarked, “There is no meaning of life; only  the experience of life.”  Seeing a homeless man at Penn Station in New York this morning, wearing a grimy “Hustler” T-shirt, I realized that, for him, a worthy Christmas present would be just to see a naked woman once more before he dies.   His dreams are not so different from mine, though my probability of success is much higher.  Still, before we were conceived, it wasn’t necessarily so.   We are both Champions; sons of creatures spontaneously animated more than a billion years ago.  We are sons of Eros and mothers driven by that defining jolt!  Within a  blink of time, we’ll both add our energy to the Universe at the speed of light—E=mc2 –the petty distinctions of our lives so trivial as to be meaningless.


I recall reading Stephen Ambrose’s Eisenhower while isolated a long way from home, in Tokyo.  It dawned on me then that the problems Eisenhower faced, as Commander of Allied Forces landing in North Africa, were not so different from the problems I was confronting four decades later.  Today, as I confront a financial crisis, comparing my issues to those of our President-Elect conjures a distinction without a difference.  The same applies to the man in the T-shirt.  Though Barack Obama may solve his problems more effectively, who will care in a century?  Though Americans often look blankly at a $10 bill, few could identify the hero without the cue of his name printed there.  And why is he there, rather than Ronald Reagan?  Whisper who dares!


Every time I get on the move again, I find myself humming “Wandrin’ Star,” and contemplating the lyric “Searching, but for what? I never will know!”  But, that’s the point, isn’t it?  That animating spark of our existence started the search, which continues in all of us.  Do you feel it?