What is it to feel alive? An alternate phrasing of the question might be, how does one describe an experience of living, what does it look like? Irrelevant of wit or wisdom, ask anyone that question and it will most certainly be followed by a pause. It’s a question that is deceptive in its simplicity, relying on a process we do almost unconsciously, several hundred times a day.
Well, how do we describe anything? Through moments, via memories, in images clear as day or ones enveloped in the unrelenting fog. We look to those moments that offer an assurance; a visceral, embodied awareness of the absolute truth of human existence. Or, its closest approximation.
Too vague and abstract? Lacking a definitive?
Ah, but there’s a problem with definitive, isn’t there? It mandates a competing polarity. The optimistic end of that spectrum is sheer, unbridled joy and exuberance of present moment alignment, where we are one with both the world and all those in it.
You know exactly what I mean. Those times we yearn to plant something, tend to it, then watch it grow. The desire to connect over wit. To make love outside. Fiercely, and in the rain. Our need to create something with resonance. To celebrate offerings of generosity and kindness, in all their wonderfully imperfect packaging. And appreciate the rare and unforgettable times we see grace reflected in the world.
But what about the polarity?
The moments that are nothing at all like the ones I describe. Those moments we attempt to forget, and the ones we can’t. The ones we will never speak of. Our before and after moments of the stories we will never tell. Moments that were about lies built, and absolution withheld. When the fit is always awkward and far from right. Yes, our species has quite a rich, lengthy history of intense brutality to avoid just such moments.
But the truth of who we are as human beings is infinitely vast. Messy, complex, interconnected, it is a truth that never exists in singular context. A homeostatic balance, forever shifting and fluid. Which is to say, people are never template created. Ones journey to that ultimate destination, both meandering and obscure. Of which there will be wild variance; though it is always by route of our own navigation.
I suppose it goes without saying, then, it is a journey which does not always feel good. It can’t. But why? And what does that mean? Forgive the somewhat navel gazing and trite cliche that question quickly becomes. Just another meaning-in-suffering conundrum framing our adolescent blue period.
The tangled skin of how it is human beings feel, seems to suggest a more tangible, less theoretically fuzzy conception of meaning. For me, the most genuine expression of authentic meaning, is action. Often routine, occasionally radical.
Genuine and profound.
It means the luxury of agency.
And the necessity of cherishing it.
It means bearing witness.
It means honoring knowledge. And being accountable to where that knowledge applies.
Standing up for each other.
And being kind.
Sharing, as well as accepting.
Having the courage to voice. The humility to listen. And the resolve to act.
It is nothing less than the absolute gift of being present.