LifeCraft–The Art of Meaning in the Everyday by Forest Church is an insightful book and offers an array of ideas worth contemplating. Forest is the son of the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho.
To a greater or lesser degree everyone shares most or all of the following characteristics. These include:
* Self conscious about their appearance
* Feeling guilty about things that they have done or have failed to do
* Sometimes have a hard time accepting themselves or forgiving others
* Have secrets which they feel may betray them at any moment
* Fail in ways that matter to themselves and to their loved ones …despite others successes.
* Feel stressful, as if happiness is fleeting.
* Worry about aging or concerned with dying
* Have been betrayed
* Wonder what is the meaning of life.
Religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die. Knowing that we are going to die, we question what life means.
“When I get anxious or depressed, as I do from time to time,” he says, “it is usually because I am focusing on a single part of my life that has gone awry. I loss my peripheral vision.”
Not a Puzzle to Be Solved
Life is not a puzzle to be solved but a series of projects to accomplish the best we can. It is not a work in progress but a series of works in progress. Lifecraft embraces living and dying, loving and losing, failing well, recovering, and coping.
“Because my father was not afraid to die, he was not afraid to live. He did not spend his life, as so many of us do, little by little until it was gone. He gave it away to others. He invested in things that would ennoble and outlast him.”
What would you put in your own time capsule? Would you put in a hundred dollar bill? A book or letters? A diamond broach? A pressed flower? A set of instructions? A picture, a drawing? Whatever it is, it all reflects you.
Tuning Our Voices
What are five things for which you hope to be remembered? To answer this, fully tap the present and the past, and consider moments when you were or are most fully present. Don’t try to impress or be clever. Strip off the layers of pretense, so often born of insecurity.
Think about your project. Which ones matter? Go to the finest places in your heart.
Even before it is an act of self-expression, prayer is an act of empathy. Prayer involves listening — it is the discipline of listening. Discipline and prayer mean much the same thing. The Latin root for discipline means to listen.
A disciple is one who listens; we listen when we pray. And simply by listening, how much we gain. From broken melody we move to harmony; we resolve our dissonance into consonance; we tune our voices to the key of the cosmos.
The Wonder of It All
If the length of time that the galaxy has been existence were a distance of 200 miles, only the last 8 inches would represent humankind’s time on this planet. Fixating on the last 8 inches of history, as opposed to the first 200 miles yields skewed results. Those of us with 200-mile parallax vision are more aware of our ignorance than those–equally ignorant–with an 8-inch view.
- Enthusiasm: being filled with God.
- Ecstasy: standing outside of one’s self.
- Empathy: being within another.
Ecstasy seems a selfish word but it is not. When we stand outside of ourselves, we connect with something larger and more all embracing. To lose ourselves in something other than ourselves is ecstasy. It’s impossible to experience ecstasy while lost in self-absorption; ecstasy liberates us from the one thing least conducive to the art of meaning. To practice Lifecraft well, you must stand outside yourself.
Minutes and Meaning
A drowning man sees his entire life pass before his eyes in about one minute. Take the next minute of your life to pretend that you’re drowning and are about to die. No more options, no more projects. One minute is all that you have left. Your entire life is about to pass before your eyes. Close them. What do you see?
A minute is a long time. Had you been ready, you might have been able to fill it more thoughtfully, but that’s the way death works. Nothing will change all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that slip by unconsciously before we fall through the trap door on the way to death.
What gives our lives meaning? Kindness, forgiveness, generosity, enthusiasm, ecstasy, empathy. Above all love, given and received. For any of these things, one minute is not a bad start. Invest a few of your remaining minutes in saving your life before you actually lose it.
Turn the Page
If you are stuck at some point in your life, my suggestion is this: turn the page. Sure, you will miss something. I understand that. Sometimes however, trying to find something that you know you have missed delays you from discovering things that await you. Action, new characters, a turn in the plot. So, turn the page.