Experience: That which is perceived, understood and remembered. Well at least that’s what Webster defines as experience. I’m not going to challenge it, it makes sense. But what if we experience something and then forget it? Do we also lose the benefit the experience had to offer? Or how about this, we do something grand, make a big splash but then everyone forgets. Does a task or accomplishment lose its luster if it’s forgotten? Can a thing that is not remembered have any significance in the first place?
The motion pictures would have us believe that any life regardless of how insignificant must affect the fabric of humanity. Just wait around till Christmas, somebody will be airing “It’s a Wonderful Life” to remind us all how one man can make a difference and how an angel gets his wings. But that’s short term, what about long term… one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years from now? Will the things we say or do now which will probably be forgotten have had any point?
For a search for an answer I first turned to some of the greatest thinkers to ever ponder the question, “Why are we all here?” or better put, “What is the meaning of life? Plato’s take on life was short and to the point, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Translation: if we arrive on this earth and do not leave a footprint in the sands of time that others may either follow or disregard than we have not lived a life but wasted one. Tough character! Aristotle when posed the same question responded, “The condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized is a life that had meaning.” Hmm…essence fully realized, sounds like the Army’s old battle cry, “Be all that you can be!”
If we turn to faith-based religions they would have us believe that goodness and kindness on earth are our ticket to salvation. That when our body dies we move on. Earth is a place for us to reinvent ourselves, better ourselves, learn and remember who we are. But if that’s true why does it say in 1Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we carry nothing out.” Well, if that includes our experience then life cannot be a lesson to be learned if it’s forgotten.
Who’s right? On one hand you’ve got the philosophers saying make a difference or perish and on the other the Bible teaches us that we are to learn from our time on this planet to prepare us for the after life; even though it seems to contradict itself in 1 Timothy.
To further confuse us, in Ecclesiastes 9:11 it states, “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all!” Wow! Like that doesn’t blow your mind! That regardless of how smart, talented, gifted, intelligent or wise if you’re not lucky at the right time forget it! That stinks! But don’t we all know how true it is. Time and time again at the Olympics we’ve witnessed the favorite, the best make one slight mistake and falter. The best and the brightest don’t always leave their mark. There are no guarantees. But what kind of life would we have if there were? Doesn’t the element of chance or loss not sometimes teach us our most valuable lessons? I think so. But back to the original question, can a life forgotten have meaning?
Believe it or not the answer was never that difficult. Let me phrase it another way. Can a life without meaning be forgotten? Guess what? All life has meaning. Whether we discover it or not! Every decision we make or don’t make will affect others and therefore will automatically create our footprint in time. With that said, it does leave us with one question unanswered, is there a universal meaning to life? This is the best I’ve been able to come up with:
To be, to create, to alter the existence of not just
oneself but in the perception and reality of
others. Life cannot exist without observation
and therefore it can only have meaning through
interaction. This interaction must begin with
oneself and find safety before it can venture
out to the comfort or displeasure of others.
But just in case —- be lucky!
by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®