This afternoon, as I was washing the floors, everything became blindingly obvious to me – it’s funny how things become clear when we do housework. They say that Buddha achieved enlightenment sitting under a bodhi tree, but maybe that just sounds better than doing the dishes. For me, the greatest realizations seem to come when I am doing repetitive tasks: painting, gardening, housework . . .
This afternoon, I came to understand the meaning of life, its real purpose, the reason I am here. I think I always did, but, as St. Paul put it, “through a glass darkly”, as if reflected in a low quality mirror (as was the case back in those days of polished metal).
And that meaning, that purpose, that reason is simply this: love.
And I know that’s true because when it passes the sniff test, which, for me, is this: how will I feel about this when I am taking my last breath? Will I feel this way when I am dying?
Oh, I like and do other things besides love and being loved, and I think that I would get pretty bored without them. I love writing words and music – but maybe that’s just another kind of love. I like my house: it’s small and modest, but it’s enough for me, and I like being here. I could continue with a whole list of things I like, but I’m not sure that any of them will matter to me when I leave them behind, except maybe a few songs I’m glad I wrote.
I was never fortunate enough to be able to raise children of my own, but I was lucky enough to be allowed to help someone else with theirs in recent years, and it changed my life. I have two beautiful god-daughters, nine and three, and they mean more to me than I can say. The closest I ever came to it, once, was saying to their mother, “I may not have children, but I DO have grandchildren.”
I am especially close to Abbie, the older sister, maybe because I got to know her first, and have known her longer, and she’s coming here tonight for me to babysit. We’ll watch “Supergirl” (her favourite show), play some board games, do a little music (I’m teaching her piano), and talk.
She’s a great kid, and I love her, and I make sure that I tell her those things often because I know how important it is for a person to hear that. She hears it from her parents, but I figure hearing it from her honorary grandfather, too, can’t hurt.
I don’t ever remember hearing that from my own parents, so I’m glad that she hears it from hers, and I know that that lack in my own childhood had its effect on me, one that Abbie will never have to deal with.
I guess you learn something by seeing how important it is when it’s there and also when it’s not, or at least its expression is absent. I know that my parents loved me, but it would have been nice to hear it, too.
And I suppose part of my life’s purpose is supply that expression when I can.
It’s not an original thought. Brene Brown said it rather well: “We’re hard-wired for connection; it’s the reason we’re here.” The Beatles, “All you need is love,” is as true as the message of all the world religions.
And when everything else is gone, as one day it will be, that will be the only thing that matters.