This I Believe

Philip - Watauga, Texas
Entered on January 26, 2007

In my early 20s I suffered a strange, sudden, blessedly brief, but all encompassing nihilism when my skin and my mind both rejected anything that touched them, from watches and pants to religion and math. And now, a decade later, as my skin still argues with me against everything except loose fitting, all natural fabrics, my mind has comfortably built itself around a notion (like a tree will eventually grow around a lead pipe or a photograph) that moved in when nothing else was welcome upstairs in the hotbed of me-ness.

I now believe, and everything else stems from this, that the Meaning of Life is life. That our entire reason, our purpose, for being alive is to live as much or as little as we can. And while it, yes, breaks the cardinal rule of elementary school vocabulary tests, the only flaw with this belief is that it is so simple and so obvious that it never should have been in doubt.

Consider: What is a Zippo? A Zippo makes fire, so we must understand the purpose of a Zippo to be the making of fire. And if an oil-filter wrench removes old and tightens new oil filters, then such is its purpose. And if humans live and stub toes and burn pasta and make love and make art and make war and wake up too damn early too damn often and hate their jobs but love their kids and after ten years or so can take or leave their spouses… if these are the things that humans do with their lives, then we must understand that doing them is the purpose of those lives. We have, after all, no guarantees out of life except these: It is going to end, and it is going to happen. And probably, if you are like everybody else, you are generally going to feel as if life is happening to you, instead of with you in a manner that will have you, deep inside your reptilian brain, even if you don’t know the words, quoting the French in that magnificent way they have with the little shrug and almost imperceptible nod and four tiny words all mooshed together in an empathy of existence: C’est la vie.

For it is life, or a life; a space between at least two births, the one into this world and the one into the next (both of which generally involve some amount of blood, fear, and pain). And while we are here we seem to have no purpose but the creation and retention of memories, which is the living of a life. Pain fades, as do entire cultures, and it is up to you to remember the stubbed toes and burnt pasta and to tell the stories of each through your art and your war, and especially through your love, because I have found that, if we live but to live, then these lives must be lives of Respect.