What matters in life? Life is beautiful, life is fragile, life is unrest. How can we talk about what matters in life without first addressing the question: what’s the matter with life?
Is the essence of life consciousness? Is consciousness an illusion of calculable material processes or is there something incalculable to consciousness and life? Do we breathe with a divine breath?
Travel, friendship, and happiness. These could be what matter in life. Certainly it matters to many people. These could be how we live and move and have our being. I suspect that the essence of all movement is imitation and repetition the essence of belonging.
Being, however, being is a mystery, being is protest. Being is feet on the ground – head in the sky; a connection to the Earth – hair blowing in the wind. I can claim to be where I stand in spite of full knowledge of where I am or what I am. Being is an act of protest against our nature, against history, against memory. It is vain and it is necessary. It is the now or never. It is the absurd proposition that life is something.
Life is imitation, a constant replication of rights and rituals observed, inherited, borrowed, stolen and performed to serve as being and surface being. The practices are moving, they foster feeling, transport to new planes of understanding, and they’re captivating and binding.
The word religion comes from religare which means “to bind fast”. In so far that life is something of value, it is bound to practices that are forms of expression and representation of being. To be or not to be is an expression as much of a desire for being as it is representation of a willingness to suffer the question that life is at stake for being.
Like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, what matters most in life may be this little precious thing we’re trying to hide from all others, or like Howard Ratner from Uncut Gems, what matters most may be something we’re trying to share with everyone through a big reveal. For both characters, their jewels are meant to bring them life, a protest against death and meaningless, but also just a mess.
The claim to be takes belief in something. What is faith if not simply trust in being or, rather, something unquestionably, worshipfully, adored as being something. With faith in the human mind and potential, I believe in myself and my capacity to render meaning. With faith in language, I believe we can meaningfully relate. With faith in money, I believe I can buy happiness.
What’s the difference between the many names of God and idols? Life is a journey, just don’t confuse the signposts for the destination. Was that Don Quixote’s problem, when he chased after windmills?
And the mills keep grinding and grinding.
So what matters most in life to me? Being and the movement towards being. A slow movement. A grinding movement. Like Tarkovsky’s Stalker in the Zone moving towards The Room – he cautiously and uncertainly moves through space and time following the path of a ribbon tied to a nut cast with a nervous flick of the wrist. He’s like a hopeless gambler that’s waged it all carelessly on the next number, and the next, and the next.
To be bold, to act, to live, to steal fire from the gods and share understanding with fellow travelers, but also to tread light, accept grace, to keep faith and not despair. In this life.