It’s just past midnight. I’m 39. Wow. I’ve been on this planet a long time. Some people grow old gracefully. I’ve never done anything gracefully, so why start now? Also, I’ve ofter heard terms like “older” and “wiser” linked but I don’t really feel any smarter. I don’t really feel older either, but the wrinkles around my eyes beg to differ.
Henri and I went to see ARGO tonight. (It was fabulous, by the way.) It dealt with the Iranian hostage crises in 1980 and the attempt to rescue six of the hostages by saying they were part of a Canadian film crew. I was 5 1/2 when it happened, Rylee’s age, so I barely remember any of this beyond my mother telling us to pray for the hostages before we went to bed. The movie was tense yet funny and gripping. These people were faced with their own mortality and questioned all their decisions as a result.
Perhaps it was the movie. Perhaps it’s my birthday and staring down middle age. In either case, I’ve been thinking about my own life and pondering the meaning of life in general. The last time I thought of anything deep and meaningful was when I was in college (big surprise there) and in a bar (no comment.) “What do you think the meaning of life is?” I asked.
“Success,” said Jess. “But how do you define success? Is it having a lot of money? Is it doing something meaningful like teaching but being poor?” asked my boyfriend. Jess could not answer.
“Happiness,” I said. “But what if my happiness causes you to be unhappy? That doesn’t seem right either. Like robbing you would make me happy because it gives me money, but it doesn’t make you happy and it doesn’t advance anything,” said my boyfriend. He was deep. He dressed in black and everything.
We settled on drinking ale instead and left philosophy for another day.
But now that I’m 39 and am older and wiser I have a new answer. I think the meaning of life is to help other people help themselves. Perhaps my deep ex-boyfriend would say that helping one person might hurt another but I think that’s over-complicating things.
I think most people want to be self-reliant but need a little encouragement every now and then. Nothing causes me to smile more than helping others and then getting out of their way. Teaching a child to tie her own shoe and then watching her teach her little brother. Holding a door open patiently so a senior can hobble through on his own, then watching him relax when he realizes there is no rush. Encouraging people at the gym to stick to their goals and seeing them light up with excitement a few days later when they update you about their own progress.
I don’t think you need to do big bold things to make a difference. It’s the little things in life – spending time with your kids, helping out neighbors, smiling at a stranger – that make little stiches in the tapestry of our life. You never know how your actions will impact another person’s life, so try to stay true to yourself and to your own moral compass.
Well, I’m off to bed. Perhaps we can revisit this discussion in another 20 years. I’m sure my answer will change again.
What do you think? Why are we here?
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