The Meaning of Life

Lately I’ve been more keenly aware of human suffering. Another neighbor came down with cancer and it’s not a gentle thing. I ran into an old friend today who told me she got diagnosed with some disease that will turn into cancer in ten years if she ever eats anything white again (okay, not quite that extreme, but close). I see kids struggling to figure out how to just be okay, adults with anxieties they can’t quite shake, tons of people wondering how they’re going to pay the bills for the next year, and today, when the ad for my Christmas books went out to 200,000 people, the web page it drove people to was down almost ALL DAY. I was gone, ironically, at a book signing at the university book store, or I might have noticed.

Way to put that in perspective, eh? My little problems are NO. BIG. DEAL.┬áThat’s what I wanted to say today.

Sure, I was disappointed. That glitch probably cost me hundreds of dollars which I could certainly use. Or not. I’ll never know. All I can do is sigh, maybe say “Darn it,” and continue on. Seriously, it’s no big deal.

I remember the first time I really learned that lesson. In Taiwan, my nice motorcycle got stolen one night. It took a few days to work through the denial and finally accept that it was really gone. At that point, I just told myself to let it go. No use getting worked up. That would only make me lose twice.

Other disappointments aren’t always so easily shed. Sometimes they go deeper. They hurt worse, touch on all sorts of other sensitive heartstrings, and don’t go away for a while. Oh, well.

But it makes me wonder, as I glance around and see the suffering that sometimes seems so perfectly executed that it MUST have been planned. I wonder if it really was. I wonder if life is *meant* to be as hard as it sometimes is.

If so, why?

Maybe to make us tough. To teach us to sigh, let go, and continue on in hope despite it all.

I’m looking for a conclusion to wrap this up, but I don’t have one.

Just keep going, I guess, no matter what. The hard times can’t last forever. Even if life never turns into a fairy tale, it eventually ends and I get the feeling that, when we look back at our mortal years, we’ll view success not so much as having led a suffering-free life as having endured well. That’s what makes heroes, isn’t it? That’s what inspires. Often times facing difficult trials with courage is more rewarding (in hindsight) than laying on the beach with a parasol and pina colada.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d still choose the fairy tale if I could.

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