On the edge of existence
The best thing we can do for people is not to give them anything material but to give them a sense of dignity. It is to make them feel that life is worth living. It is to inspire them to experience the joy of living. It is to make them feel at home in a world of uncertainties and confusion.
Existence is a continuous questioning of the validity of life. It is a challenge about the meaning of life. Life always bears a question mark because, in the world that we live, we have to struggle to make life a positive reality. Life is like a small boat at sea which is constantly battered by the billows.
Every good and excellent thing stands moment by moment on the razor's edge of extinction and must continually be fought for.
Some of the greatest men and women either have been tempted to commit suicide or have committed suicide. Even holy men and women have been tempted to take their lives. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit congregation, was often tempted to commit suicide. Yet, he is honoured as one of the great saints of the Church. It is as if the greater we are, the more solidly anchored we are in this world, the more we are threatened with extinction. This is the one of the great ironies of life.
Robert Clive, one of the main architects of the British conquest of India, committed suicide. He tried it twice and failed. The third time, the deed was accomplished. Graham Greene, the famous English writer, was tempted to take his life. He was just fortunate not to succeed. Malcolm Muggeridge, famous English writer of the 20th century, had determined to commit suicide but on his way changed his mind. Ernest Hemingway, the famous novelist, took his own life. Nearer our shores, the Guyanese author, Edgar Mittelholzer, died by his own hands.
The taking of one's own life leads us to the deep mystery of life. What is life? What is the meaning of life? How can one live meaningfully in a particular situation?
Every life is unique. There is no duplication. There is no way we can enter into a person's mind and heart. Everyone, no matter how intimate he might seem to be with another, remains a stranger, a mystery. Life is often an experience of loneliness. No one fully understands another. Some people are tempted to break that barrier of silence and loneliness that encompasses their lives. Why some follow that course and others do not remains a mystery.
Every life bears inner pressures of various kinds of which others are not aware. This is all the more crucial in modern times because of the myth of success and of the glory of personal enhancement. We do not have full control of these elements. They often elude us.
Besides, modern living, with its technological advancement, does not permit much personal communication. Our life is much too mechanical. Formally, life was more conversational; there was more sharing; we were more attuned to nature.
Modern living inspires us with high hopes. You can obtain everything that you want. The sky is the limit! We need a strong dose of realism if we are to feel comfortable in the world in which we live.
Deep within us there is the struggle to maintain our existence. There is the inner endeavour to remain alive. "To be or not to be" is not an option for a human being. The human mechanism favours man alive. Just as every other animal life strives to maintain its being, so does the human person.
But sometimes the system breaks down. There can be many reasons. Some are physical; others are mental or psychological or even demonic. Some are of a temporary nature; others are enduring. Life is such that we are all exposed to that "encircling gloom" which may unexpectedly encompass us. Light is perpetually threatened by darkness.
With development comes the increased expectations of life. Development, as desirable as it is, does present problems. We are going to need more counsellors and psychiatrists. This does not mean that we are more evil than our forebears. No, what it means is that human development calls for more than our inner resources. Additionally, there is need for increased knowledge about the human mechanism. How many people have ever heard of the terms, "Mid-life crisis", "Crisis of Limits", "Second Maturity"? Yet, these are important expressions of human growth in the process of becoming fully human. They are very crucial for the understanding of human life, living as we do, in some way, on the very brink of existence.
Human life is unfinished business. It is always in the making. We are continuously striving to lay hold of life and consolidate our existence. It is a very hard undertaking. Some people lose their grip.
This world gives us no guarantee. Life demands much resilience if we are to cope with the vagaries of circumstances. The present moment can be a tremendous insurance for the future. Blessed are those who can link them harmoniously.