There are no answers. Only stories.
I used to think there were answers. At one time I thought my mother had them. Then I thought the same about a pastor. Then God. Then a teacher. Then society and government.
By the time I reached 25, I realized that there are no answers.
All we have are stories.
Some are old and ancient. Some are current. Some are true and some are spun tales.
Some stories come as songs, or poems; and others in the form of books, films, magazines, newspapers.
Our traditions are also stories.
And even so are our conversations.
In an allegorical sense, life could be said to be a story, or a whole collection of stories. Which is why we have autobiographies and biographies.
I have met people who try to derive answers from stories. They might convince themselves and even others, but they are still just stories. I don’t say “just” to diminish them, but to distinguish them.
If life is a question, or a series of questions, then the notion that there are no answers can be daunting. Overwhelming even. A path to despondency. Such a realization has the potential to render life pointless for one willing to face the cold, hard realities.
But maybe life need not be a question (or problem) that requires an answer (or a solution). It is just life and we live it. We need not figure out the ideal or best path. Each decision need not be analyzed from every angle. Every action does not need to be calculated.
However, if I were to be guaranteed an answer to any inquiry I could dream up, then I would pose two questions, which fester at times on my soul:
- How shall we then live?
- Is there a meaning in life, and if so, what is it?
My tendency is to wish or hope that there are true, deep answers to these two enquiries. But what if not? Or what if there are answers but they are not deep and profound; and instead only simplistic and fundamental?
I am reminded of a story of Jesus talking to some people. The attention they paid him and their willingness to listen, seemed to indicate that maybe they started to understand that this was the wisest guy they had ever met. In addition, his miracle-working power could have made him seem that he had all the answers. In that context, what was his best advice for the tax-collector who may have craved the meaning of life?: “Don’t cheat the people from whom you collect the taxes.”
That’s it? All of life is merely to be honest? We are only here to be good and fair and just?
So if I try to think simply, maybe here are two simple answers to the questions above.
- How shall we then live? Live as best you can to the glory of God.
- Is there a meaning in life, and if so, what is it? The meaning in life is to live as best you can to the glory of God.
And if that is all we mostly really need to focus on, maybe that is why we don’t need any more answers.
And why we only need stories.
PS. I forgot to mention that on the night before D-Day, Winston Churchill read Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. On that fateful eve, he turned to this fictional tale to reinforce his belief that English civilization was worth fighting and dying for. Yes, indeed, the power of a story.
PPS. Soon after I posted this article, I just happened to visit a church. Their site I checked first, while in the parking lot, and it happened that they were prominently talking about stories as well. My curiosity was piqued since I had just written this. But something struck me as wrong. I kept reading on their site about “your story,” the “story of your life and past,” etc. It was all about stories of the newcomers or people attending.
It all made me realize that I had forgotten to mention that while stories about humans are nice, we should focus our lives primarily on the “story of God;” or “God’s story.” Otherwise it’s like going to the movies instead of going to heaven.
© 2019, Alignment Life