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.