Wondrous ways

By Mathias Maurer, May 2017

“Why do we exist at all?” my youngest asked me. Another sudden, unexpected question that brings me to a standstill.

The meaning of life? The point of life in general? Or the point of human existence? Should I answer with something religious, a teleology, an entelechy, or a story from the Bible? It struck me that simply describing one of the many biological or biochemical processes would be completely out of place. The question came again. Should I say that it is because God “breathed life into us”? But an answer like this could elicit further, more complicated questions: Huh? How? Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? ...

And in what way does the miracle of existence in our creation coincide with man-made reproduction in a Petri dish? The question came a third time. I answer without giving it too much thought: “We exist because we love each other.” No further questions came and he ran back outside.

However, an answer like this wouldn’t be accepted by his older siblings, and as if on cue, another question came directly from the next room: “But we don’t always love each other, do we? We have arguments and a lot of people hate each other, don’t they?” Things were starting to get increasingly more complicated and I realised that I would never be able to give a “correct” answer, but rather just one that the child asking would “understand”.

So, how do we get from “God created the world and everyone on it” to the conscious question about the meaning of life, a question that every person has to answer for themselves. I found that the morning verse recited in every Waldorf School, both in lower and upper school, comes to mind. But does love have to play an active part in life? Is it love that makes life worth living as well as creating a sense of wonder? You only have to think about oocyte cryopreservation and transhumanist fantasies of omnipotence, where life, robbed of its wonder, is made possible through technology.

I contemplate this issue a bit more: is the meaning of life that we have to learn how to love? Love can be extremely egocentric. I can make myself the “object” of my love and my life. If I awaken myself to another living thing or another human being, it grows and gives me vitality, I give and receive love, I share life. However, even when doing this the sense of wonder can begin to fade if it isn’t continually forced to soar to new horizons. This form of love can be described as a form of love that starts as a trickle between two people, growing into a current bringing people a sense of belonging within a group, and then rising to become a tide of love for all of humanity. This was already recognised in the times of antiquity, and we still denote theses forms as Eros, Philia and Agape. The miracles of existence lie along this path and are continually awaiting rediscovery.    


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