Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thoughts On The Search For Meaning

Some experiences in life make us all the better for having had them, even if we may not believe that to be the case at the time. Often we may not recognize the goodness or richness inherent in an experience until much later, especially the mentally or physically or emotionally challenging ones.

Maybe that delayed learning is the essence of human adaptation in the face of seemingly unbearable pain or change---letting go when it seems no good can come of it or holding on for dear life to all that seems to have meaning.  And sometimes both of those sentiments are wrapped up in one event, symbolic gesture, touch or sound.  Who hasn't been catapulted decades back at the sound of a few chords from a song or felt tears well up at the sight of a tri-fold American flag presented with the thanks of a grateful nation to a bereaved mother or young widow?

Occasionally we are blessed by the gift of understanding even in the very same moment. Those instant revelations seem to fill our senses to bursting as we struggle to absorb and appreciate the full measure of their meaning on the spot---as a new baby first suckles at its mother's breast or with the exchange of trust when a new driver is given the keys to a car on his or her first solo date.

Perhaps the blessing is surviving those life events to allow understanding to occur in the fullness of time. That is, maybe individual experiences only become more meaningful as we age. Layered one upon another, they seem to make us wiser, stronger, more complete---like the plies and cross plies in plywood or the over-lying layers of fiber glass in a boat hull.

Time allows us to process what has occurred into why it happened in the first place.  In those first few proximate moments, the why often remains hidden, sometimes in plain sight.  Yet it waits to be discovered when our vision has cleared and we are ready to see.


  1. Those are some good thoughts, Bill! It is often after the fact that we realize the value of our experiences. I think you're right that they become more meaningful as we age, and they add wisdom and completeness to our lives. I just want to appreciate those experiences before they fade from my increasingly faulty memory!

  2. I'm with you, Connie. Unless I write something down, it evaporates from my memory. And sometimes, even writing things down is a risky proposition.... I was in a bit of a reflective mood that day---will probably be back to my old ribald self in a day or two....