Wisdom Of Kahana: The Meaning of Life
Often I am asked about the seeming unfairness of life, the incongruities that exist where evil is often rewarded and the pursuit of goodness tends to lead to nothing but unbearable suffering and being hurt constantly. And this imbalance often is turned into a question about whether God even pays attention to our prayers and if he is truly omnipotent. After all, how could He not believe in those that believe in Him? It is not a Karaite issue, or a Rabbanite issue, or that of any other religion; it is one about the relationship between God and man. The answer is inextricably entwined into understanding the purpose and nature of life. Not life as in being animate, existing, and breathing, but life as in, ‘why we are here at all.’ So often man has quested for the meaning of life, never thinking that perhaps we already have that answer. If we were to take the time to meditate upon our existence, to actually assess the powers we have in our possession, then all would become crystal clear. We would realize that we have the ability to fulfil our needs and satisfy our desires. But too often we want more than we need and desire that which we don’t and then instead of being enlightened by life’s meaning we are instead dissatisfied and curse our very existence. We have knowledge, we have wisdom and we have the ability to change our world, but still we question why we are stuck with the life we had. Why, because we think once we have established what we consider some order in our lives that it should remain in place. But nothing remains forever. Change is the constant. Life is a continuous ebb and flow. Nothing is intended to remain permanent and understanding life is learning how to embrace that change. Accept who we are and what we are. Accept it gladly and without resignation or condemnation. See life not as a hardship or an affliction that must be borne but as a contest that must be won. We must rise to meet that challenge and not let it overwhelm us nor deter us from our goals.
Finding Life's Meaning
Like the gears in a clock, life is a constant movement and the only way we can exert any control is building those gears with central pins welded to an immovable base. A foundation that remains unchanging, that cannot be altered or overruled. That platform must be constructed from the faith we have in God, unalterable, unfailing, and unchanging. And it is from that solid base that we derive our wisdom, our knowledge and develop the skills necessary by which we can face life’s changes. The number of the gears, the size of the gears, number of teeth each gear has and how they are placed are all up to us and completely within our control; no one else’s. If we take our time to place the gears properly like a seasoned watchmaker then ultimately we will construct a timepiece that serves its purpose well. Some of will construct a Rolex, others merely a Casio. But even those that can only construct a Casio, if they study hard, learn from other masters, will eventually build a Rolex too. To do so means asking questions, taking advice, listening to others, and so often that is where we fail. Foolish pride often gets in the way of our ability to listen to others that are trying to help us. And when things go wrong, we will sooner blame others for that failure in our lives than accept our own responsibility.
Life’s adversities will provide us with pains like arrows through the heart, fill our mouths with vinegar like bile, crush our spirit until we feel we are unable to stand. But without such pain we cannot develop, we cannot grow, we cannot mature. Easy words for me to say I know you are thinking, made even more bitter when we see others to whom life appears to be more generous, providing them with far more than they merit or deserve only through the chance of a higher birth, unusual streak of luck, or the gift of treasures unwarranted. It is true, the path is not even, it is not always fair, but it is equally true that the going will not always be rough and there will be good times. We must learn how to make those good times, as fleeting as they might appear to exceedingly overshadow the bad times which plague us. Similarly those that have been raised high must always fear the possibility of being cast down. Our lives are neither short nor long, but the required length in which to achieve an understanding of life. Each one of us is intended to leave our impression upon this Earth so that those that we leave behind will retain a grateful memory of our lives while we were here. It is our choice whether we leave them with sour and foul memories of our existence or with a sense of admiration of how we continually faced adversity and found comfort from within to still be a better person than most would have expected from similar circumstances. And in turn we will pass that quality and understanding to our children so that they too may benefit from what we have learned.
The measure of a wise man is that he will always live his life to the fullest and will be grateful for the life he had. The foolish man is always begrudging what he has and keeps saying that tomorrow he will begin again but every tomorrow is followed by another and another. The coward never begins to live, never accepts the challenge, dying as he lived with nothing achieved. For those whom have only half lived I can say that you are already half dead. Life is to be enjoyed, savoured, relished and celebrated to its fullest. We are only tested by our weaknesses but never by our strengths. Doubts and worry dog us every day of our lives but these pressures force us to seek the wisdom that lies within all of us. Now is the time to live; not tomorrow and never later. Today we make a choice on the meaning of our own life.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana