Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's the Point?

Doesn't it seem like, one way or another, this is the question that we're all chasing down. There are of course myriad ways to frame the question. What is the purpose of my life? Where am I going? Who am I? What is my destiny?

There seems to be a driving urge within us toward an unnameable destination. I guess most of us experience this in practical terms, at least at first. We see the next train station on the map and think, that sounds right, that's where I'm headed. Maybe you started asking yourself the question in high school, and the point at that time was to go to college, or land a good job, or get the right car. So then, off you go, and you proceed to the next landmark, get there, and then find yourself right back at the question. And there's always another station, another practical answer awaiting us, and that practical answer also never quite satisfies the urge.

"What do I do now?" comes the question, yet again. What do I do, just get up every morning and head out the door to whatever awaits me? What's the point?

And on it goes. More looking ahead, more acquiring, whether we're chasing after knowledge, possessions, relationships, prizes, family, concepts, world state, whatever. Somehow, the basic belief still holds together, that there exists some magical destination that will quiet that urge. Some of us may even believe we've arrived there at a given point in our lives. The job is just right, the kids are just old enough, the annual vacation is grand enough, the shack is dry enough, and we lean back, sigh delightedly and whisper "now don't ever change." Hoo-boy. Have you ever tried to pin the world down like that? The world won't have it. Something will change (in fact, everything will change) and now it's back to chasing down the new destination.

Or maybe there's the constant business of disliking your current destination: This is definitely not it. I need to be anywhere but here. These people aren't doing it for me, this town, this career, this situation is definitely not it. Get me out of here!

So most of us seem pretty fixated on attaining some as-yet unknown destination, and/or barreling madly away from another. What seems more rare is for a person to see their own experience of maddening futility, or worse the ever-deadening certainty of the cycle. This is a powerful revelation. The whole deal that we've all signed up for and agreed to, the way this whole happiness-success-fulfillment business is believed to work, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. And we know it! Now we're really in for it.

People have come up with all kinds of workarounds for this particular problem, over the centuries. We're creative, clever, driven folk, we humans, and we'll re-engineer our brains out, to keep from tossing out such precious possessions as belief systems. Certainly economic systems are built to draw us into the attain-and-look-forward-again mentality so deeply that we never remember to look up from the production line. Just keep making the next development in wide-screen, hi-def technology be your next destination. You'll never run out of destinations! How about philosophy? Can we get lost in the details of the What's-The-Point question, really tear apart every block and corner of every idea and concept, hoping the destination will be found somewhere deep in the debate? And certainly confusion over the teachings of most religions seem to get twisted up in the same ol' acquisition scheme, promising future post-life rewards to keep the destination thing still in play.

Or are we defeated altogether by the never-ending trip? Do we plunk down in our seat and resign ourself to the long, aimless haul?

And yet, there will be those who do look up from the trip.

This looking up is to knock your socks off.

For the first time, somehow, you see. You're willing to really see. It's as if you're in the rafters, looking down on Grand Central Station, watching all those serious travelers powering toward who knows where. And here you are, nowhere to go, nothing to accomplish, watching from above, watching the ebb and flow of human desire and aversion and commotion driving everyone on and on and on. And at the center of all that movement down there, doing the same frantic dash to nowhere, is a a character you suddenly recognize, called... me.

Me is the person who always believed in the destination. Me is the person who bought the train tickets, asked for directions, fretted over which destination to aim for, was always checking to see whether arrival had happened, and always looked somewhere else besides right here, wherever that is. Me had bought into the whole chasing-down-the-dream thing, and now Me has suddenly disappeared into the crowd down below. Me is essentially gone.

Strangely enough, there is still existence. There is an aliveness that has always experienced the trip. There is a presence that cares not one jot for any of that old destination scheme. Sure, trips will still be taken, maps will be studied, destinations will be experienced. There's just no more urgency to the trip. There's no more reality to the Me arriving at a particular destination. There is only presence, enjoying all of the scenery as it passes by, just as it always did. And by the way, part of the scenery continues to be that character called "Me"!

So what's the point? To unglue your eyes from the map, toss out the concept of any destination being capable of containing your happiness. The point is to simply be awake, to live as the presence that enjoys the map and also the side trips, change of plans and even breakdowns. The point is to know this presence and aliveness as your true Self.

And with that, what do you do now? You get up every morning and head out the door to whatever awaits you. How great is that? Enjoy the scenery!