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Friday, May 21, 2010
Trailmarkers Toward a More Meaningful Life
“What does this mean?” might just be my favorite question. (Not counting “Would you like a second scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby?”)
Life moves quickly. We are bombarded with experiences, conversations, interactions, feelings and images. Most of those are just life coming at us—we cannot take them all in and ponder the meaning of each and every thing that happens. But some of those experiences are like trailmarkers to something deeper, something meaningful. They are clues toward a life of greater significance and integrity.
• Steve was talking with a few of us. In a fairly routine way, he mentioned his wife. Suddenly he got choked up, caught off guard by his emotion. Steve wondered what that was all about.
• Mary is tired again today. Maybe she has a low grade virus, or maybe her body is telling her something else—She wonders what her fatigue means?
• Jose went in to his favorite small bookstore yesterday and had a casual conversation with Bill the owner. While talking, Bill revealed something about himself that Jose didn’t know before. Jose felt like they connected in some small way, and he walked away more energized by the conversation. Why did that conversation feel meaningful?
This Sunday the Christian church marks an event called Pentecost. In the story found in Acts 2, a wild and crazy event happens to a group of people who have gathered for a religious festival. Nobody knows exactly what is going on. While it is a more dramatic happening than what most of us experience in our daily lives, the question they ask is the same: What does this mean?
One of the keys to a deeper inner life is a willingness to slow down long enough to ask this question about the experiences we have. In some cases, the conversation/experience/dream/feeling might not mean much at all. Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and for us sometimes that feeling in our gut is just last night’s burrito. It may not mean anything more than that.
Or not. In speaking about these kinds of questions, Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
Most of my visions of the divine have happened while I was busy doing something else….My only part is to decide how I will respond, since there is plenty I can do to make them go away, namely: 1) I can figure that I have had too much caffeine again; 2) I can remind myself that visions are not true in the same way that taxes and the evening news are true; or 3) I can return my attention to everything I need to get done today. These are only a few of the things I can do to talk myself out of living in the House of God.
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World
Have you come across any trailmarkers lately?
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