From the earliest known ancestors, mankind has wondered why they were on Earth, and if there was a purpose for life. My sympathy goes to these forebears. I, too, have tried to understand how best to manage my life: It seemed always to be changing course. Was I missing cues? Despite a full and satisfactory life the thought would sometimes arise, “Is there a purpose I have not yet understood or satisfied?”
I have lived a long life, and one of the lessons learned, one of the insights gained over that life may be of use to others: I don’t ask questions about the purpose of life, or why I’m here, anymore. I think I know.
One of my metaphors for life is that of a pot boiling on the stove. Occasionally I stir the contents. It’s my life, I’m responsible for what is simmering there. Sometimes I add to the contents, sometimes I pick out and discard items, as life and my needs alter.
As the end approaches, I make fewer and fewer changes. The broth is clear, I can see right to the bottom. The simmering of the pot of life has boiled away all but a small amount of what once was there. What remains are little nuggets of clarity—little gems, if you will, that life has saved for my comfort and support in my latter years. Coming vignettes will present more of the gems I treasure; this offers the first one.
“Listen – Understand – Act”
It sounds simple, but is easier said than done. Yet when I do manage to implement this motto, I am more use to those around me, and closer to fulfilling my life purpose.
Especially at my age, often the only actions required of me are to listen and to understand! Sometimes, though, I can do more. Life is good, and my purpose includes appreciating it, savouring it, and giving something to every day that is waiting for me, in the pile of days at the end of my road.
8 Responses to Life Is A Noun: Living Is A Verb!
I’m not convinced I like the “pot boiling on the stove” metaphor, Marjorie.
a) I don’t want to write “pot-boilers” and
b) I worry sometimes that my pot is boiling dry!
Nevertheless, I get the point — especially about listening and (trying to) understand. People go through hell, but no one seems willing to listen and to understand; it may be the last service some of us older people can provide.
Jim – I learn something every day! Your comment about not wanting to write “pot-boilers” puzzled me, and I went to Google and looked it up. ‘Nuff said! Never knew it as an everyday expression! Oh well, bet you didn’t know it as a metaphor for life either.
I’m glad though that you agree on the value of listening, and trying to understand. Every day I encounter that – in elderly people with the ailments of age, young people with the challenges they encounter, and so on. We cannot solve problems usually, but just hearing them out is a comforting act in so many cases. Thanks for your comments.
Just an observation, from my many years of HomeCare – some of the happiest, and most contented elderly people I ever met were nuns. A “nursing home” for nuns was part of my caseload, and so I saw a LOT of VERY elderly nuns over the years. My theory for their joy was that they had a “purpose in life” right until they died – and that was to “listen to God” and to pray for others?? I also think they lived so long because they had very little stress in their lives? who knows, but I do agree that we try and overthink our purpose – and that listening is ALWAYS a good thing to do.
Alison – I have observed mainly two kinds of listening – one when the listener is watching for a break, so he/she can leap in and talk about what they are interested in. The second – is when a person “listens”, concentrating on what the other is saying, and trying to understand. Being human, the first type seems to come easily for us. The second type takes practice, but the rewards for both speaker and listener can be high. Nothing like reaching behind the “public” person and meeting a new and interesting person.
A conversation is not waiting for the other person to finish talking, so one can jump in with “I….”. So rare to find people who don’t do this. I don’t want to be the former (she said, beginning her sentence with “I” !!). Listening, really listening, is the hardest lesson to learn but the most rewarding. We all crave it and yet we often don’t do it for others… your post a good reminder.
Thanks Barbara – As I quoted “easier said than done”. One can’t go wrong by listening for a while, before responding. It is so nice when the conversation shows that your companion is listening and understanding what you are saying! A win/win for both sides – and so hard to remember.
I love your “gems in broth” image — something like finding pearls in paella.
Laurna – As well as the pleasure of hearing from you, I also learned a new word – paella! Having now surveyed Google’s info on paella, I agree. My metaphor of boiling life down to a few gems is similar to your idea of finding pearls in paella! In any event it is a fact – the older I get, the fewer things remain important to me, and form the gems I treasure.