Currently I'm overwhelmed by the pointlessness of my life's outcomes. This is nothing new. I enter these periods of time more and more familiarly. They come once or twice a year. Like items in a chain grocery store of a strange city, the questions are familiar but in different places. I walk the aisles of the my meaninglessness removing past successes and failures to re-examine them. I hold them up against the success and failures of others. I hold them against my expectations and the expectations of others. No matter how I inspect my past deeds or current actions. My cosmic tally sheet stays empty.
Good deeds become infinitesimal in light of the mighty evils in the world. Gigantic errors are invisible in light of their featherlight eternal impact. Accomplishments are as special as an individual grain of sand. There are too many others for mine to mean anything. I usually turn to the book of Ecclesiastes (to everything there is a season....) for wisdom at this point. It's a bit discouraging, "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless, says the Teacher" Geez!
I read of an old friend's rising success in her chosen line of work and think, "what have I ever done like that?" Then I think, "so?" I wouldn't want to be successful like that. And if I was, I would still feel meaningless. Accolades come and go. Impress people one day and you'll disappoint them the next.
On the other hand, I see my sister and brother-in-law working, working hard to raise my little niece in a home of love and good boundaries and I know that their sacrifices will never make it on a bulletin board, billboard, or book of "Who's Who" but I begin to see a glimmer of what is truly significant. Or I think about my hero, my mother and tears come to my eyes. Her courage in face of many huge life disappointments, her wisdom in face of life's meaningless harshness, her love in face of hurts...these qualities, again, will never be read about except maybe at her retirement party or in personal notes from former students and colleagues. But she is significant. Many many many tallies for good are written with the pen of her loving life on mine.
These reminders are important because I feel like my accomplishments, large or small, on this voyage are insignificant because I'm not really doing anything. I'm on an "extended vacation." What meaning is there in that? I can mend a sail or build a stackpack or bake bread every week but those things are all really for my comfort or the safety of ME. I long for opportunities to be meaningful like my sister, brother-in-law, or Mom (and many many others sacrificing and loving silently). So, I turn my heart to loving my family and friends from a distance. I pray for you. All of you. I also pray for the people that we meet along the way. I also bake a lot of brownies and banana bread to give away. Maybe we'll encounter some tangible things that feel productive and worthy of accolades but in the mean time I'm trying to remember the book of Ecclesiastes because at the end, the Teacher determines there's a lot of injustice a lot of really screwy things in the world and he says,
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man." Ecc. 12:13
This still is a hard thing because God has some commands that are really hard and there are so many other things I'd prefer to do (like hold grudges instead of forgiving, feel sorry for myself instead of trusting an invisible being) but that's not what the meaning of my life is, according to the Teacher. The next verse says that God will judge all deeds, good and bad. I guess that leaves me out of a job; Now what will I do instead of measuring my worth? I guess I'll bake more brownies and go snorkeling.....