Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
There is only one meaning of life:
the act of living itself.
Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and social philos-
opher, born on this date, 1900, in Germany
This resonates with me deeply. In my over four decades of “ministry” – which to me, looked at from hindsight, was striving to accomplish the “act of living” – I look back and see that this is at essence what I attempted to do: help people to be free to Live. When I do look back, I see how I and so many others were shackled, held back from Living. Mostly by people whose intention was not to give me Life, but in some form to enslave me. Mostly to pander to their own agendas.
So many times over the decades I have been asked by people, “What is the purpose of Life?” Most often I have said, “To live it”. During the over eight years I was a pastor to people with AIDS, and really in all my ministry, my primary “work” was to get people to live their lives before they died – to throw off all the burdens (oh, I think of Jesus saying to the Pharisees, “Whited sepulchers! Piling burdens on people and doing nothing to lift them!) and do what they longed to do and Be before Death gathered them. Blessedly, I was aided by Death, whose impending arrival has a grand way of prying people free from their ruts and bondages.
Living is a moment by moment enterprise. You can’t get stuck in the Past and you can’t get seduced by the “Future”. They are only places to be given a passing nod. The arena of Living is the Present Moment. It defines the Past and the Future – if they indeed exist. The real challenge of human life is to stay intensely focused. To be with yourself and what’s going on in your heart and mind and spirit. To be with those who enter your “space”, not ignoring them. To be aware of the World, of fellow human beings, their pain and hopes and joys, caring about them, doing what you can to open their journey. I am grateful to have spent most of my life helping people to reject the inhibitions society and family and expectations put on their Lives, and get on with the Act of Living. This freedom is at the core of the Israelite experience (the Passover), and the Christian experience (the Resurrection). We are set free.
The “Act of Living”, not where you “got”, is the purpose of being alive. Someone has said that the only thing that will make any difference in the end is how we loved.
Loving is the heart of the Act of Living. The freedom to love is both a choice and a gift of Grace.