by cheri block sabraw
Last year, I visited the marvelous San Francisco Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Along with a shockingly gorgeous white crocodile and a room full of butterflies, was a human skull time line, illustrating the changes in the evolutionary development of the human brain. I stopped at one of the small skulls of early man and wondered what types of concerns this person might have had about his life. Survival, I thought and moved on.
In modern culture, we don’t usually worry about being attacked and eaten by wolves. The wild animals that gnaw on our bones at night while we sleep are usually those same ones that haunt those of us who crave meaning. Is there meaning to our lives? And if so, what is it?
I’ve written before about finding the meaning of life in Nature, but since I have been enrolled in Scotty McLennan’s course at Stanford this quarter, The Meaning of Life: Spiritual and Moral Inquiry Through Literature , I am now revisiting much of the literature I have taught through the years, searching for meaning beyond the obvious.
What is the meaning of life?
First, it is hard to find meaning if you talk too much and listen too little.
Meaning cannot be found in distraction (your iPhone, stupid).
Meaning has nothing to do with mirrors, but reflection may get you there.
Meaning has little to do with you, but others may help you find it.
Literature introduces us to characters like you and me, characters such as Hester Prynne, Willy Loman, and even the giant caterpillar, Gregor Samsa. What can we learn from them about the meaning of life?
I’ll be writing about some of these characters over the next several months and look forward to your thoughts about the meaning of life.