The sight of the night sky filled with stars is enough to stop you in your tracks and wonder ‘what does it all mean?’ I got my first view of a tropical sky, far away from the city lights from the deck of an ocean liner. I was seven years old; the family was on the way to our life in Jamaica. It was after my bedtime, but my father had been so stunned by a sky awash with stars that he had come and woken us up, and taken us up on deck to gaze in awe.
In comparison to millions of stars that are light years away, what is one planet? And amongst millions of people on the planet, what is one person? We see ourselves as the center of the universe, when it is far from the case. I dreamt I was asked ‘what makes you special?’ and I could not answer the question. For I realized that if I am special, then everyone should also be special. Why should I be more special than women in India, where every 34 minutes a rape takes place, and each year up to 100,000 women are killed over dowry disputes. Am I more special than mothers in Africa who will lose one in ten babies under the age of one each year? Am I more special than parents of teenagers in Chicago? In one school in Chicago there have been 29 shootings over the past year. If we are honest we will admit how lucky we are, and how special not to live in Syria, where violence and death are commonplace.
This led me to thinking about the meaning of life. There are times in our lives when we grapple with the big questions. Why are we here? What really happens after we die? Does reincarnation exist? If so, was I a queen in another life? Perhaps you are not bothered by such questions; you may be a believer who has faith in the Bible, or other teachings. But there is always room for healthy skepticism.
As I was musing on my own ‘specialness’ or rather the fact that each of us living in the world has an equal right to be special, I realized that what gives life meaning, is to make it meaningful. How do you give your life meaning? What are you dedicated to that is bigger than you, bigger than your immediate wants and needs? For the things that we hold on to as being precious can easily disappear. Most of us are one paycheck away from losing that beautiful house. That special car may be wiped out by one distracted driver. Life is impermanent, and the only sure thing is death.
Buddhist monks remind themselves of the fact of impermanence by creating beautiful works of art in colored sand. They spend days pouring the sand into intricately designed mandalas, meditating and chanting while they work together to create these wonderful designs. Once the mandala is completed, they sweep it up and disperse the sands into flowing water, to symbolize how nothing in life lasts.
I see the beauty of the clouds in the sky as living mandalas. Some days, you can stare at the sky and watch the clouds forming different designs before your eyes. So in the light of all of this change, how do we find meaning? By making our lives meaningful. By doing something for all of those other special people in the world who may not have the advantages we do. By looking outside ourselves to leave a lasting legacy of actions, not things.
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
This Friday morning I hope that you can enjoy the beauty of this impermanent world, while feeling compassion for all of those whose lives are not as blessed as yours. I hope you can find meaning in your life by making a difference in the lives of others.
Have a great Friday, and a wonderful weekend, family!
One Love! Namaste!