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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Meaning of Life

March 3rd, 2018

Penny Billington ~ Photo by James Moore

Many thanks to Penny Billington for her wonderful guest blog post about that biggest of questions…

‘So, what to you, as a Druid, is the meaning of life?’

What a question! None of your usual tea-party-Druid-introductory chat – ‘Do you love trees?’ and ‘What about those gruesome rituals…?’ Well, no, we won’t go there: history is written by the victors, and the ancient Romans were rip-snorting hypocrites, with an agenda and absolutely no sense of irony…

But I digress.

No, the email request went straight to the big question. And the caveat, just in case I responded with a dissertation; ‘Submissions should be between 200 & 900 words.’

For Druids, thinking about the big questions should go with the territory. That’s if we’re to emulate the best qualities of the ancient Druids. I mean, even Caesar said they, ‘impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.’  Feeling linked to that lineage, broken as it is, though reinvigorated through a million hints from landscape, sea- and skyscape, I should certainly have thought enough to have an opinion.

But the meaning of life? Isn’t the important question, do we think that life has meaning? Should it? Must it? If it doesn’t, is it a cruel quirk of nature that our brains are programmed to be constantly looking for meaning in life?

My conclusion? That we’ll never know whether life has meaning. But I’m sure that the way to find meaning in life is to be here, now, in the most celebratory and joyous way we can. If we sort our physical lives to be the best and healthiest – for mind, body and spirit –  then we can enjoy each moment through its reality, not waste it with a constant wishing for what might be. If we’re born to come to terms with one paradox, it’s this one: that by imagining perfection, and striving for it, we can ruin our lives.

Imperfection is life’s bag. In our minds, in our souls, are harmony and perfection. In the physical world, imperfect life is the perfection of the moment, devolving down into all those maddening, frustrating, fascinating adjuncts of life – money, love, occupation. You know, those areas we want the tarot reader to blow fairy-dust on, to tip the balance as we aim for the three oranges on the one-armed bandit of life. That seaside end-of-the-pier prophecy can be fun; and it can remind us that we need to pay attention if we’re to reconcile our inner and outer worlds; but as a single experience it’s wish-craft. Read a fairy tale instead; it’s a wonderful aid to accessing the other realms.

So life isn’t perfect? Good: let’s get on with it. Accept, allow, move along harmoniously.

We do this by working always for the best and highest: focusing on the big things; noticing what, in our present state of im/perfection, makes our souls sing with the birds, the trees, the streams, the whole cosmos…and pursuing those things, dancing through woodland glades in a glorious, fulfilled present, towards an unknown future.

But enough for now. For let me, in turn, ask,  ‘What do you, as a Druid, think is the meaning of life?’

Maybe the big questions should be for our tea-party conversations? ‘Hi, what’s your name/how many children/Work/ the meaning of life…….?’ Give it a try, why don’t you? Focusing on the big things could be fun! I picked up the gauntlet, so follow the link below to see my brief two penn’orth (and what many other spiritual thinkers have made of it) on the biggest question I’ve been asked to date.

11 Responses to “The Meaning of Life”

  1. Lovely article by Penny. We are conditioned to strive for perfection, but do we really understand what we mean by perfection? Is our perception of perfection something that is completely alien to Nature and so an unrealistic goal we can never reach, but constantly stress over? If we learn to live in the moment rather than constantly wishing for some unreachable future state, perhaps we will find the contentment that’s been so elusive?

  2. “But the meaning of life? Isn’t the important question, do we think that life has meaning? Should it? Must it? If it doesn’t, is it a cruel quirk of nature that our brains are programmed to be constantly looking for meaning in life?” I hadn’t thought of it like that before but yes that would be a cruel twist indeed and what would be the evolutionary benefit of it unless it was true that there is such in some form?

  3. Hello all, from a snowy Forest of Dean. Here is a loaded question, the meaning of life! “What’s it all about Alfie?” Well, whatever, one has to retain a sense of humour, faith, looking further than just under our noses. We can all say this and that according to our own perceptions, is what life is about. The events that happen in life to us, are they according to our map we are prepared with before birth? Are they mistakes because we have forgotten the plan? Some of life, seems most unfair, blindingly cruel. I think that we need to keep our spiritual wits about us, and get to a place where we can decipher the reason for events, actions of others and just keep our attention on honest and loving intent to everyone, nature etc. Listen to the still small Voice. I wrote the following in July 2016.
    “PEACE is already here/ You just tune into it/It is like seeds floating in the sunlight/But if you look down, you cannot see/ The brightness that enfolds you. /I AM expanse and containment/There is no bridge to the “other side”/You walk and live already in my cloak of Love,/I AM and you too are this/ No demarcations, no borders/Or forbidden territories/ JUST US. Much love and blessings as usual, Margaret.

  4. Blah! There is no “MEANING” to life, we are part of the flux,the movement of the whole. Fragmentation is the problem. Notice what Ceaser said the Druids were teaching.

  5. I once worked with a woman WOOFFER from America who’d had a job as an abseiler cleaning the oil and grease from the giant windmills on a wind farm. These windmills were set in ordinary farm fields, at the time in question filled with grazing sheep. One of the guys on her team jokingly said he’d buy a drink at the pub for the first person who spotted a sheep looking up and acknowledging the windmill-cleaning team. Who knows if there were others, according to my WOOFFER friend it took two weeks before someone spotted a single sheep who wasn’t eating grass but craning its head back to stare at the abseilers. Using this as a loose analogy rather than an indictment on sheep, my question is: Why are so few even interested in the Meaning of Life? Why is it I can go for weeks and weeks before I encounter someone who doesn’t duck their head uncomfortably if the subject comes up (I don’t make it a priority, just sometimes it’s interesting to gather others’ thoughts…)? Why isn’t philosophy taught in schools? And why isn’t everyone starving for conversation around Existence?

  6. I think, Tara, because they do not know they are starving. “They” are being stuffed with all other rubbish, deceptive nonsense, by those who do not want us to look for Existence and the reason we are here. “All we like sheep have gone astray” sings the Messiah chorus, but the one sheep in your story did look up, we have to take heart of that. Take heart, too, having to call in a gas engineer to rescue me from an unworkable boiler yesterday, this young man sat, over a cup of tea talking in the same vein. I had never met him before. So, maybe the right people at the right time are sent our way from time to time. Don’t give up. Blessings and love, Margaret.

  7. Hello Penny. Great to see your smiling picture. It’s been awhile since we met at Eimear’s place at Three Castles. For me, personally, just waking up is a great start to my day. It’s a bit cheeky to say, but after serving 10 years in the army, I know that each day is a wonder to explore as I have experienced the fragility of life. Quite simply, I am just happy to be here … wherever here may be. Cheers Penny!!

  8. Three separate questions:
    – What is the meaning of “life”?
    – What is the meaning of “our lives”?
    – What is the meaning of “my life”?

    Meaning exists only in a context. There are three different contexts here.

    “Life” exists in the context of the universe as a whole. Why do we have three spatial dimensions? Who threw in Time with its imaginary square root of a negative number? What about that “dark matter” nonsense? How does this give rise to “life”? What IS “life”? Is it really different from “unlife”? Is consciousness part of this question? Is consciousness in everything? Is it an illusion? Was the universe built around “life,” or was “life” an accidental side-effect of building the universe? There are so many questions, and they tend to come up when you try to commune with a foreign intelligence, like an elemental spirit, or a tree, or a hawk. We “life” forms are so different — do we have anything in common? Can we be said to have a common purpose, or meaning? If we do, is it simple enough that we can comprehend it?

    “Our lives” exist in the context of our connections, as humans. Our parents and children. Our tribe. Our ancestors. Our broader civilization. Our common humanity. Layers of connections, often in conflict. When two groves of Druids disagree on a point of spiritual cosmology, should they discuss it until they come to agreement? Or should they go to war and try to exterminate the “wrong” one? Which approach serves the meaning of our life as a species? Which serves our tribe?

    “My life” exists within the context of a very short span of time, in a particular ancestry, tribe, and civilization. What is my meaning within that context? It isn’t my context to save Rome from falling. It isn’t my context to set foot on new planets orbiting distant stars. Can my life be robbed of meaning by my context: my family, my tribe, my society? Is the meaning of my life encoded in the context: if I am poor, then is the meaning of my life that I am a poor man? Or is the context of my life something for me to transcend? Is my meaning to “do good” in the world, to right wrongs? Then what are the “wrongs” I find myself daring to correct, and why do they exist in the first place? When a rich man cuts down a forest to make paper to serve the bureaucracy of oppression, is that his meaning? Or did he fail to find his meaning? When I seek to “right” this wrong, how do my methods serve the meaning of my life?

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