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What is the meaning of life?

Marc Gafni » Blog - Spiritually Incorrect » Daily Wisdom Post » Hebrew Wisdom » Unique Self / Soul Prints » What is the meaning of life?


Soul print consciousness gives a radical answer to the ultimate question: What is the meaning of life? In this chapter, I am going to unpack that question and sketch briefly some of the ways that people try to answer it–so that we can move on later toward unfolding the unique and special soul-print response that can be so powerfully transformational in our lives.

What is the meaning of life? Throughout history, philosophers and theologians have struggled to answer that huge, abstract question conclusively. Everyone offers a different picture of what goal, if we achieved it, would make men and women happy, satisfied, or at least somewhat more fulfilled.

We are all conglomerates, constructions of the philosophies we are fed and choose to feast upon. We nourish each other through a symphony of resonance and dissonance, defining ourselves in agreement with the beliefs that have walked before us, or challenging them.. And we have lots of beliefs around life-meaning to synthesize. For Marx and Engels, human meaning came from being part of the right economic system–which for them meant some form of a communist state. For Hegel, meaning came from participating in the progress of history–the unfolding of what he called the absolute spirit. For classical religion, the answer has been God–with an important side bicker over which is more meaningful, believing in God or doing good deeds: Is God most interested in right faith or right action? For mystical traditions of both East and West, Karma is the central concern–cleaning out the accumulations from a person’s past and getting off the wheel of suffering. For others, meaning has come from the drive to achieve bliss–Nirvana, Satori-enlightenment–through detachment, drugs, meditation, study, or prayer.

Certainly all this meaning-making is important and valuable. But I believe it is all too general and abstract to touch any primal place in our daily lives–to help us live our soul prints. Somehow, it seems that after reading all the popular and learned tracts, most of us still feel curiously untouched and disconnected from the possibility of meaning in our lives. We are left with a nagging sense that the truth of our lives should be simpler– even if it’s an elegant, profound kind of simplicity we seek.

In the ancient rabbinical Talmudic learning tradition I was raised on, we would spend our days simply asking questions in different ways before rushing to answer them. The reward and approbation we received in study came not just from a clever resolution of some spiritual conundrum, but also for a Gut Kashya–that is, a great question. As my teachers always insisted, framing the question is half the answer. So let us rephrase our what-is-the-meaning-of-life question in several new ways.

Where is the meaning in your life? That is not an abstract philosophical query but a passionate question.

What is the quest you are on? How are you searching for meaning in your individual existence? What meaning might you be able to wrap your mind and heart around and say “Aha!”?

Or to reformulate the question again, this time a bit more prosaically, What makes you get up in the morning?

Remember this famous getting-up story?

A mother went into her son’s room. “Time to get up for school, Bernie!”

Bernie pulled the blanket over his head. “I don’t wanna go to school.”

“You have to go,” the mother declared.

“I don’t wanna! The teachers don’t like me! And all the kids make fun of me.”

The mother pulled the blanket down. “Bernie, you don’t have any choice. You have to go to school.”

“Yeah?” Bernie said. “Give me one good reason.”

“You’re forty-five years old and you’re the principal!”

If you aren’t Bernie, if you don’t have to get out of bed anyway, what is it in your life that would happily draw you into the new day? What is it that would make you feel good about yourself if you could choose any calling that the world offers? Amid all the entanglement and drama of your everyday life, what tug toward meaning does your wonderfully specific soul print feel?

“Colorful Kites” by Salvatore VuonoIt was Timothy’s twelfth birthday. He had saved up enough money to buy himself a present. Nickels, dimes, and quarters–he went to the neighborhood store, put his change on the counter, and–wonder of wonders–had exactly the right amount to buy the big red kite on the wall behind the cash register. The happiest kid in the world, he went to Van Cortland Park in the Bronx and began to fly his new kite.

There were great winds that day, and he let out some string, and a little more string, and a little more, until the kite was so high and far away you couldn’t even see it anymore. When you looked at the boy, all you could see was a happy kid running with string in his hand.

A very respectable and rational-looking man in a business suit came upon the boy and stopped him. “Son, what are you doing?” he asked.

“What do you mean, sir?” Timothy asked. “I’m flying a kite!”

“Flying a kite? What do you mean? I don’t see a kite. You don’t see a kite. How do you know there’s a kite?”

Timothy looked at the man very gravely, “I know there’s a kite, sir–because I can feel the tug!”

When we are kids, it is relatively easy to feel the tug, that precious pull of our youthful souls towards meaning. Our world was small, the rules fairly clear, and the joys of childhood abundant. What happens when we grow up? How often do we lose the magic of the tug–the tug that tells us that life is exciting and worth living even if we can’t always see the flying kite, the goal of our soul’s efforts? Did we drop the string of meaning a long time ago because we didn’t think there was anything there?

When you are truly connected with the nature of your soul print, when you know how you can leave its inscription on the world, then you feel the tug. You can get up in the morning and embrace the day.

From Soul Prints by Dr. Marc Gafni


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