This short documentary Being 97 by Andrew Hasse is moving and poignant. The ageing philosopher Herbert Fingarette (1921-2018) contemplates the meaning of life and death after having written several books about it during his academic career. He asks, “what is the point of it all?” He feels he failed at solving it.
I think in the end he perhaps did solve it, but he didn’t realize that he had. He finally saw that it was not a question that could be answered, that it has no rational logical definite answer. It was a “silent answer.” There is no answer. Silence is the answer.
As he looked out on the trees from his porch he finally saw that perhaps the reason for life was life itself, that being was its own reason, that life exists for life, and this is transcendent beauty in and of itself which we often overlook as we go about our busy daily lives. The point of life is life, the ups and downs, the loves and failures, the happiness and sorrow.
This is not reasonable or logical. The rational mind can’t make sense of it. There is no end game, no point to it other than itself. Life is the point. It is found in the living of it, and the love expressed within it. Life is trying to realize itself, and in so doing often misses itself.
EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it… every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe… they do some.”
Or as the 17th century German mystic Angelus Silesius expressed it:
The rose is without ‘why’;
it blooms simply because it blooms.
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It pays no attention to itself,
nor does it ask whether anyone sees it.
A rose has no point, no reason for existing. Its existence alone is enough. It doesn’t ask itself, “what point do I have? Why do I bloom?” The point of a rose is simply to be a rose, it is in being, it is in living. It is to do what roses do. It exists because it exists. It lives because it lives. It is because it is, and that is why it is. If the rose could speak perhaps it would say “I am that I am.”
Maybe we can learn from these, meditate on the gift of Life, and come to deeply appreciate it for what it is in itself.
And maybe that’s enough.