Making sense of our lives
We live in a very crucial moment in our history. There are immense challenges which confront us. Prominent among them are events like, Tropical Storm Erika. These are special, unusual, totally unexpected incidents that stop us in our tracks, catch us unawares, put us off balance, threaten our equilibrium, disturb our composure and baffle us completely. We seem to have no answers. There is no one to explain our situation to us, no prophet to unravel the mystery in which we seem to be engaged with all our being. It is something which concerns us most intimately. Yet, it is something incomprehensible. It is something which defies rationality. It is something, to our minds, that should not be.
Who will come to our assistance? Who will help us to measure the discordance which is expressed in our lives, discordance between what we hoped for and what we experience? Who will restore the rhythm of life which we so cherish? Who will speak a prophetic word? Who will wave a magic wand to deliver us from the scourges of disaster? Who will help us to make sense of our lives?
This is the line of thinking of most of our countrymen and countrywomen. They may not express it. This is so, not because they feel otherwise, but because they are not able to articulate the mystery in which they are most unwillingly involved.
We are perhaps not a very reflective people. This is not because we have no material on which to dwell. Rather, it is because we are not trained to examine our lives. We are not trained to look with eyes wide-open at our existence. We are not trained to ask life-giving questions.
It is good to ask questions. Of course, if you do so, you may be labelled a confirmed critic. So was Job of the Old Testament. He was bold enough to ask questions. He dared to question God. He was very impertinent. God rebuked him for being a "critic". He challenged God. And because he did so, one of the most revealing Books of the Old Testament, of ancient history, has been handed down to us. He made his case and he gave God a chance to defend himself.
Our picture of life is largely that of a simple, unchanging experience. Life for us is never an unsettling engagement. One thing follows after another, as it should. There are no shocks, no challenges, no embarrassing situations, no darkness, but only light. You can almost foretell what is going to happen. There are no surprises.
However, this is not the kind of life that is fascinating. This is not the kind of life that is meaningful. This is not the kind of life that is worth living. The fullness of life is far different from our desired expectations. It is littered with all sorts of satisfactions and encumbrances, with triumphs and failures.
A young girl goes to school. At first, it is exciting. She has new friends and makes new acquaintances. The future looks rosy. There is no way to deprive her of all the joys of life.
But then the subjects prove challenging. Sturdy application is required if progress is to be made. Then there is confrontation with her fellow students. This is aggravated by relationship with teachers who do not seem to be as understanding as she would like.
She plods along unwillingly, looking forward to school leaving. It seems to last for years. There is no end in sight. The last year seems to be the longest of all. However, as everything else, it does comes to an end.
Now there is the world of work. Independence is the name of the game, and everything looks bright. This is so until the manager accuses her of a lack of diligence in performing her duties. To crown it all, she is bypassed in promotion.
However, life goes on. She has a boyfriend whom she first met at the Warehouse Disco and she is very pleased. He has had a very troubled youth. She looks forward eagerly to marriage. His family had been reduced to poverty because of his father's failed investment. However, she thinks that together they can make it.
The excitement of having a permanent mate and her own family carries her on. But there are family problems. Husband and wife have enormous conflicts. There is a world of difference between them. But they hold on. After all, a family is larger and greater than the individual units. There are the children.
So the children become the guardian of their marriage. But this does not last very long. Soon enough, the boys and girls grow up and desire to launch out on their own. Unwillingly, the parents allow them to depart. And they are forced to take things in their stride.
But problems never cease. There are work problems for both husband and wife. After all, they have been toiling hard at a job which they never liked anyway, but to which they hold on because of the demands of making a living.
Inevitably, retirement comes. They welcome it. Now they can enjoy independence which they never had before. With a house and a car and most of the amenities of modern day living, they should be fairly comfortable.
However, there is never a dull moment. Old age creeps on. The wife becomes crippled with arthritis. The husband suffers a stroke. Both of them are now invalids. They seem to share each other's burdens. And from their comfortable armchair, daily they share their thoughts on their past life, reminiscing on "the good old days"!