Reflections from the Couch 9 – Meaning and Purpose at Any Age!
So, as I come to “Reflections on the Couch 9”, I seem to have had too much time on the couch!. Because I have reached a bit of a crossroad in my life, which I get at various times. I often wonder whether it’s because I am an explorer by nature (thanks Dennis), and love everything from science to faith questions, to music and literature, to philosophy and psychology. Phew, too many to become an expert in. And I also love just being with people and sharing their story or stories.
Yet eventually all the things I love to do collide, and I have to choose!
So what’s my dilemma. Ah, that I can’t tell in a public space, but it has to do with meaning and purpose, ours and others, how do we find it, how to we hang onto it when we age, and does working for a church, a rather anachronistic job in our fast paced science driven world help people to clarify it in some way.
Parker Palmer, a wonderful writer, has written a book called “On the Brink of Everything”. In one of the chapters he addresses this idea, since he is over 80, asking “does my life have meaning?”.
He writes, “at the moment I rest easy with the notion that I don’t need to ask or answer that question, does my life have meaning. All I need to do is to keep living as one among many as well as I can, hoping to help myself and others grow ripe with life and love as we stand under the sun.”
Beautifully written, from someone who has been a fine writer, activist, but also suffered severe bouts of depression all his life.
How do we get to that wise point in our lives? Because, like Parker Palmer, our journey has many ups and downs.
Can I, as a part time minister of the Uniting Church, help people on this journey?
I spoke to a friend recently about this, also a minister, who gave me some direction . He thought his role in being a minister was about finding meaning, for him and for others, and not only from ancient texts but also from the world we live in. I would like to repeat his words to me here –
“Sure, religion is messy. But imagine there’s no religion. Imagine a community of folks approach you and say hey, we’re into trying to figure out life. We’d like you to be our philosopher in residence. Like an artist in residence, with words and ideas and feelings. You’ll live in a little house we built for you. You’ll counsel us, and help us think through stuff. You’ll be there for us when we go through changes, go through bad times, feel lost, feel inspired to help others, and when we die. You’ll basically just be supported by us, to be you, for us.
I really do think this is the greatest gig in the world.”
Mm, I love that, that we, as ministers, are to help people find meaning and purpose, not just through our faith tradition, but also by exploring how the world works, how we work, and then to help work out how we are all to live in this world. By just being, us, who we are!
That’s a pretty good thought, since quite often I feel I am a real mixture of interests and ideas, and I bring them all to the table in my role at Wembley Downs, including a half finished PhD in science. I now realise that’s what I have also wanted to do, and what I have to offer.
So as a note to self, more than anything else, let’s widen the role of a church minister, maybe even drop the title, (I am actually called a Pastor, which is also slightly cringeworthy) and open the doors of the building to let in the light of stories, and experiences, and knowledge, some from our tradition, some from our world, including science, and lots from each other. Let’s embrace the opportunity we have to help people find meaning in a society which can so easily swallow them up and spit them out. Let’s make an inclusive, exploring community.
Maybe if we do we will all grow in our understanding of what life is and how we are to live it together.
Or as Parker Palmer said, “help us and others grow ripe with life and love as we stand under the sun.”
Not a bad thought really!