Questions From the Big Chair

What is life? Do you feel the seconds and minutes counting down your life are out of mind? You spend your day from task to task feeling like you’re standing immobile in your own body as a prisoner without a direction, sails laid bare, floating in a sea of indifference.

In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Levin asks a few troubling questions, so troubling that he hides a gun and a rope knowing he may one day be so troubled by a lack of answers that he will want to end his life. I know it sounds drastic but Tolstoy modeled the character, Levin, after himself and the author did indeed carry a gun and rope with him. Levin’s questions are the same questions we are philosophically inclined to wonder about… what is life.

What is the purpose of life? We are born, grow old and die. What is the opposite of being? Is it nothingness and how can you define nothing? The concept is hard to grasp. So is our ‘being’ a permanent state? Will we always be?

We wish to believe in the miracles of saints and sinners but nothing seems to penetrate the jail house bars which only harden as our questions continuously bleed from our mind. Is this the dark night of the soul which John of the Cross told us about? Is it the descent of Dante into the nine rings of hell or Persephone’s half-year spent with Hades while Demeter lays waste the earth into a cold, barren winter?

Nietzsche stated that life is something that should never have been but it’s all we have so one must say ‘yes’ to this mystery. Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth said we’re not so much as seeking the meaning of life but the experience of being alive, the rapture. Perhaps it all comes down to George Harrison when he asks the question of Krishna… “What is my life without your love?”

It was William Blake who stated that the ‘Doors of Perception’ need only be cleansed so as to see the infinite. Could it be that to aid in our questions of life we need only to quiet the left hemisphere of the brain and start cleaning this door with the right hemisphere? Or as Robert Bly called it, “doing our kitchen work“, deflating our ego by performing the work of a simpleton, task that free the mind, holding our thoughts temporarily in reserve, as we earn the right to transcend this door which lays hidden, not known to exist. So in our kitchen work, we labor complexly unaware of the task at hand as we scour the mind of fear and loathing. There is faith in this, the faith of the just on the path of life and love.


*Photo- StockSnap


28 thoughts on “Questions From the Big Chair

  1. First, I do love the George Harrison song. How true; what is life without love.

    I feel that life is the greatest gift we will ever receive, ours to fill with what we choose.
    You give us another brilliantly written post with questions from wise men with quite troubled souls. I would say as a Greek friend told my friend a few years ago: ‘You think too much, live more’. Said with almost childish clarity.

    I do agree, the doors of perception need to be flung open to let the fresh air in and the windows of the soul cleaned and sparkling.
    After that it might be that we can find a balanced co-operation between both halves of the brain🎶🦋

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very thought provoking post, JC. Familiar questions there.
    Hindu philosophy holds that our lives and the world is the Lord’s big dream (and there’s much to that thought, of course). It is our life experience (s) -there’s no good or a bad one- that is important as we are providing to the ever expanding collective Soul.
    One thought I heard in a lecture that eased me: there are just two realities, birth and death. What we are doing in between in just passing time 😄 Lightened me up, in more ways than one.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was a Christian for the majority of my conscious life. Then life pulled the rug out from under my faith, leaving me floundering, asking the very questions you’re posing here, questions I thought had been answered by my beliefs.

    Today, no longer a believer, I’ve found that though I no longer claim to know the answers, it doesn’t matter. I am happy with the conclusion that life just IS. Whatever its purpose will be revealed at death, the worst outcome being that life is all of what we perceived while living. If this is the ALL, if we die into nothingness, unconsciousness, and we were meant to live our lives to the fullest, then life has indeed played a cruel trick on all but the hopelessly unaware. The final resolve? That life has some purpose – what it is, we will only know after we die – and that’s OK. Why is it OK? Because EVERYBODY dies. Nobody has ever lived on this earth and not died. Even the Christ saga ends with the hero dying – whether he was actually reanimated is a question for those that feel they need to ponder such things. The final analysis is that we are all on this same rock flying through space and the answer to our existence is anybody’s wild guess.

    Somehow, I find this comforting. I’m able to look past this life and encompass the entirety of existence, grasp it in the small limits of my consciousness, and realize I can be happy now – forget the after.

    You’re questions are phenomenal, JC. There was a time I wouldn’t feel comfortable even voicing this kind of doubt when I was Christian. Perhaps I thought it would show a lack of faith. Perhaps I thought, as many Christians do, I already had the answer, why ask questions? But, now, asking the questions, that in itself brings a kind of bliss, a happiness that I am alive and understanding that life is the sum of my existence, nothing more and absolutely nothing less.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry about that, man. I didn’t mean to burden you. I got carried away. Your post had a strong affect on me. Great material and something we need to think about.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. JC, thank you for this wonderful literary 101 speed class on the essence of life! Absolutely fascinating and I won’t forget about Tolstoy with his rope and gun – as for quietening the left side of the brain I’ve tried, I’ve tried…to little avail, I fear!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Annika. I’m afraid I still have trouble keeping the left side of the brain quiet. It loves to gossip too much. And yes, Tolstoy with rope and gun. He was quite a character.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad Tolstoy never used those contraptions and lived quite a long and fulfilling life. Your words always leave me reflecting and pondering. Perhaps Tolstoy subscribed to Henley’s famous quote: “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Who knows? 🙂 Thank you very much for such a thoroughly researched and lovely post, JC.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Although I clicked the ‘Like’ button on this post, I actually needed a ‘Totally Perplexed’ button. I am very discomfited by what is being said here, and the quotes make me even more uneasy. This means that I have come up against a barrier. I’m a big fan of pushing against those things and so, if it’s not too much trouble, may I request that you tell me more?
    Kindness – Robert.


    1. Hi Robert, I received your comment/questions and will answer. I’m in the process of moving so it’s taking up too much of my time. But I will answer as soon as I can find a quiet moment. Thank you for your patience. JC

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s okay – I got it. I read what you wrote again and it makes perfect sense now. The key (for me) is the phrase ‘quiet the left hemisphere of the brain and start cleaning this door with the right hemisphere’.
        Thanks for sharing these profound words, and apologies for my lazy reading of them before.
        Kindness – Robert.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Dante, Persephone, Blake. Those are educated references! Very diverse. 👍🏼
    Personally I’ve always felt like a player made in a game. I can’t quit or walk out. Just suppose to go on. See how long I survive. Purpose? I hope it’s not entertainment but it feels like a test.
    Let the games begin!


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