MEANINGFUL GRAVE 11 May 2020
In David Guterson’s (of Snow Falling on Cedars fame) book, East of the Mountains, one of the characters muses on “. . . the meaningless trajectory his life would take into a meaningless grave.” The man thought such because he was under monumental stress that muddled his thinking. His life was meaningful beyond measure.
Is there such a thing as a meaningless grave? I suppose . . . but very few and far between.
Life-and-grave judgments depend on what one considers meaningful. We are tempted to leap to high-caliber achievers like Jane Goodall, Johann Sebastian Bach, Albert Einstein, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Indeed, folks like these superstars led lives full of meaning and, in turn, contributed such to others. But what is often missed is that Average-Joe-from-Kokomo, whose name was never in any magazine nor his mug on any TV, lived every bit as meaningful a life as princes, popes, and presidents.
What gives meaning to the world and the lives of everyone in it is love. Not wealth or power or public acclaim or some world-shattering accomplishment. But love. Not love as some spine-tingling emotion (although that happens, and is enjoyable), but love as acts which work for the good of others and for the good of the world.
It begins with family relationships and then broadens to what one does for the betterment of the society in which one lives. While a love of self is essential, a healthy sense of that motivates one to loving acts for others. Sages through the ages have waxed eloquently on particularities. By my lights it boils down to doing those things – DOING, intentionally, purposefully, willingly – that make for concord, joy and peace instead of discord, sadness, and turmoil.
My brother died at fifty-six years of age. In the eyes of the world he was a nobody who achieved very little financially or professionally. Yet Mark was a loving man who cared deeply for his family, his larger circle of friends, and the natural world which gave him such pleasure. And he put those values into action to the best of his ability. As we spread his ashes on the West Fork of the Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, Arizona, I thanked God for all that he contributed to our family, to life. It was not a meaningless grave.