and The Answer
Few things challenge our minds more than reflecting on life, often at the end of one year and the beginning of another. The
challenge lies not so much on the reflection as on what it is we're reflecting. What, indeed, is life?
Let me tell you a story.
The question "What is life?" evoked a wide range of answers some years ago at a three-day meeting of a group of the world's
most distinguished scientists. They were meeting to discuss the possibility of
extraterrestrial life. It was a time before humankind first stepped off this planet to fly to and land on another heavenly body. We had yet to send a human to the moon
and to undertake automated missions to other planets.
The group met in a hotel in California's Disneyland. To observers (I happened to be one), no apter place could have been
chosen. It seemed to generate a range of possibilities of the kind science fiction writers envision.
One distinguished astronomer discounted a successful moon landing because he thought the lunar surface was covered with a
deep layer of powder that would engulf anyone or anything landing on it. Finding life in such a place was ruled out. But
elsewhere in the heavens, most of the scientists thought, life indeed would be found eventually. But the word "life" ranged
a wild gamut starting with molecules that could reproduce themselves.
To set matters in perspective, one scientist cautioned his fellows as follows:
"Let us be clear that when we say that some day we'll discover life in space we don't mean a being who stands on two feet
and speaks English."
So reflecting on life, what are we doing? Do we have in mind all life or a human life span? Most of us, supposedly, are
thinking of our years since birth and what we might expect in the time to come. Beyond that span--in the time before our
present earth years and afterwards--many of us also ponder life in some form.
What meaning do we see in what we are and where, when and why? At least, it seems worthwhile for each of us to ponder our
years on earth from time to time. And to do so in some context beyond our mere daily existence.
First, let us see that we are, at least, thinking forms of life. And, having minds, we're likely to ask questions--often
one that simply asks: Why am I here, have I served that purpose, and am I doing so?
It's question No. 2 for most of us, No. 1 being: What must I do to survive?
When we can answer No. 1 with some assurance, then we're likely to seek the answer to No. 2: Why?
That we're able to get to that point of assured survival means we're blessed indeed. Perhaps, in fact, the answers to No. 2
are likely to be part of the answers to No. 1: How to survive. Many of us know at first hand that the reason for living
underlies what we do to live.
So beyond all else, each of us can find solace, inspiration and even transcendence when we reflect on life. Some who are
unalterable pessimists may dismiss their personal outlook and blame hardship on others and/or outside circumstances. And
some who are empty optimists may depend for their good on fairy-tale expectancy.
Most people reflecting on life probably find the best course in the realism of the scientist in Disneyland who warned
against expecting life to be a two-legged being who speaks English. The wise and others aspiring to wisdom express what
they seek in words that run the gamut. For instance, "Godliness," "love," "happiness," "balance," "wholeness," "purpose,"
"achievement," and, perhaps not so uplifting, "status" or pure, old-fashioned "ego."
In the context of one's years--in the life we've had so far and in the life we can expect ahead--what has happened and will
happen still goes more to one's outlook and output, plus inlook and input.
That, at least, seems to be the general finding of the wise through the ages. So, reflecting on life from time to time is
likely to be a measure of hope. It means, above all, that we can do something about things.
I bow to that.
©Copyright 2005 Hubert
Pryor. All Rights Reserved.
Hubert Pryor is a retired editor of national
magazines--Modern Maturity and Science Digest among
others--Hubert Pryor is the author of SOUL TALK:
Positive Mind Treatments to Turn Your Life Around
(available through DeVorss & Co., 553 Constitution
Ave., Camarillo, CA 93012, 800-843-5743, www.devorss.com)
and a forthcoming book, SERENITY 101: Spiritual
Wisdom, Ancient and Modern, for Peace of Mind Today.
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