Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THE MEANING OF LIFE – AGAIN





You live you die: get over it. 

Most of us have, at some point, walked through an old cemetery.   The tombstones from the sixteen, seventeen and eighteen hundreds can’t help but fascinate us with their death heads and epitaphs.



Especially in New England the ground is rich with markers from the past.  

Years ago, while hunting partridge outside of Brunswick, Maine, I discovered five small blocks of granite marking grave sites.    Each stone was roughly chiseled with one word: Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Baby.   I have often wondered about a family that died and no one knew their names.   Was it the plague or an accident that beset a family traveling through the area?   We will never know, for the only memory that is left of these people is five small weathered blocks of stone.   How many people have been buried in the Maine woods with no marker or wooden markers that deteriorated?

The only unique things about the dead in the old cemeteries are the monuments and epitaphs, because we don't know the dead or care about them.    Some of my favorite are:

From a grave in Pennsylvania:   In memory of Ellen Shannon, Aged 26 years, Who was fatally burned March 21st. 1870 by the explosion of a lamp filled with R.E. Danforth’s Non Explosive Burning Fluid.

From a grave in Massachusetts:   death was caused by bathing.

Another in Massachusetts:   Here lies the body of James Vernon, the only surviving son of Admiral Vernon.

Another Massachusetts: She was very Excellent for Reading and Soberness.

In Vermont:   The Old Nuisance.

And lastly:   She finally shut her mouth.

The point is that someone died and except for the unique stones (and eventually these will wear away) they are forgotten.   Their lives, in fact, had no more point or meaning than some Neanderthal that died in the ice fields of northern Europe; unless it is referenced to present human record.   Unless we say… their descendants…  which is to say that our life and the lives of our descendants is the point

After all what would the world be without us, and that is a circumstance that will surely come to pass.


I think that unconsciously we flatter ourselves that the earth exists solely for human habitation.   If we don’t believe the earth is six thousand years old and created for mankind (which means we accept the indisputable proof of science and evolution) we must come to the realization that humans have not always existed on this earth and will not always exist.  It  somewhat takes the wind out of our sails when we realize that nations and governments and leaders and wars and armies are the social concepts of human beings and in the scale of the cosmos are meaningless.    Perhaps we should consider the conundrum that Steve Hagen poses in his book buddhism Plain and Simple  that perhaps “we face the woeful prospect that we’re intelligent creatures living in a meaningless world.” (Though, I have a problem accepting the concept of blanket ‘human intelligence.)

At some point in the future our sun will burn out; at some point our galaxy will collide with Andromeda; at some point our earth will be hit by giant space objects; human climate change is effecting the chemical make up of our air and at some point will be irreversible; at some point a pandemic virus will evolve or be developed and released; or more likely, at some point a fanatical nation or group will bring about nuclear annihilation. 

The short form is that the human race, and the earth as we know it, will not always exist – and the lives of our forefathers and ourselves and our descendants will amount to a meaningless blink in space time.

Back to Steve Hagen and buddhism  Plain and Simple  - this should not be a downer, a reason for despair.   Through what ever accident of evolution, we have our time on this wonderful planet; and because our lives are finite we should not waste a day or an hour or a minute without being consciously aware and meditating on the wonder of the moment. 

Live in the moment, because you don’t matter. 

the Ol'Buzzard

6 comments:

  1. Accidentally posted this on your previous post; deleted it, and am putting it here:

    Beautiful...I actually do get strength from this, even though it should be depressing. If you haven't already (and I'm sure you have), read Pema Chodron. Trust me...you'll like her. Thanks for stopping by my blog...your comment was very appreciated. Finally, my favorite epitaph observed in my travels? "See that? I told you I was sick..."

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    1. I have read Pema Chodron and I agree with you.
      take care
      O'B

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  2. Excellent post on a subject I think of often. For all of our self-congratulatory propaganda, the human race still falls into the category of Mr. Natural's conclusion..."It don't mean sheeit".

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    1. We are alive in only how we effect others - and then we are gone. We can only strive to live in the moment and do no harm.
      O'B

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  3. "We are alive in only how we effect others - and then we are gone. We can only strive to live in the moment and do no harm".
    My sentiments exactly; your statement is what we KNOW for sure and must act on it. I just looked in my library and I have that book. I will have to read it now.

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COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."