“All men should strive to learn before they die
What they are running from, and to, and why.”
— James Thurber
Our belief systems – how we make sense of the world — are installed in us at a very young age. We absorb them from our parents. We learn them in school and in our religious institutions and from the examples we encounter in literature and the arts and popular culture. To some extent they might even be transmitted to us genetically. They tell us how we should behave, what we should value, and why. They are the foundation on which we construct our lives and create our personal stories.
When we’re young, many of us question and challenge those belief systems, but seldom in a way that causes us to reject them entirely or for long. Youthful rebellion usually flares, then fades as adult responsibilities assert their primacy. People go to work, get married, start families, buy houses, take vacations, get divorces, change jobs, and on and on in the stream of life. We are distracted. And time passes.
In spite of the totality and durability of our belief systems and life’s seductive distractions, questions eventually arise. They are cracks in the foundation, small at first, but impossible to dismiss. When the old answers don’t work, we are driven to find new ones. We feel out of balance, unmoored, disconnected from the world as we have always understood it.
Or sometimes, possibly through personal loss or unexpected joy, life suddenly reveals a flash of its core. And that single moment of perception triggers a spiritual exploration.
Either way, we become Seekers.
Whether it happens in an instant or through an accumulation of smaller realizations, life compels us to uncover that elusive new truth that will make all the pieces fit together again.
Seekers aren’t simply curious. They’re not involved in a casual intellectual exercise. They’re driven to get at the essence of something. They don’t want to waste the rest of their lives in empty effort or false accomplishment. They’re after meaning.
I think there is some of the Seeker in all of us eventually, even if we aren’t consumed by a philosophical quest. The older we get, the more we are drawn to eliminate the distraction and clarify our existence. We want to make a difference, large or small.
Have you already settled beneath your own personal banyan tree, involved in a spiritual reinvention? If so, I’d like to hear how you got there and how the quest is going. Nothing is more essential for The Rest of Your Life.