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Reflection on Life

Why do we experience this thing called life? What exactly is life then?

On Saturday we watch the livestreaming of the funeral of Robin Scott, the debonair cousin of Lee’s dad. This is the third funeral in a so many months for us. Friends and family reflecting on Robin’s amazing achievements in business and the racehorses he bred in KwaZulu Natal, people tried to capture the essence of the ‘Who’ of Robin.

It made me wonder what exactly this thing ‘Life’ is. What force stopped animating this flesh body?

It is clear, no? We all know Life. We grasp it intuitively rather than comprehend Life’s full and formidable actually. But is it?

Centuries of wordsmiths strive for the perfect phrase to catch the meaning.

Libraries of theological and philosophic works wrestle this obscurity out of dark to that mental dusk, never making the full dawn.

Artist spill gallons of pigment to scale that mountain, but whoever summits?

Bards and minstrels warble eloquent butterfly tunes, but she is a platonic muse, ever eluding consummation.

Billions of beings go right on daily all around us under the spell of this thing called Life. It observes, evaluates, reacts, interact, evolves through reproductive and metabolic growth.

We alive with it, other than that which seemingly lack it, consume energy. This consumption fires physical and conscious development. In this way Life grows, eventually dies, ebbing and flowing in cyclical loops of awareness of ourselves and grasping the relative environment as possible for us by our unique allotted measure. This measure is differently shaped and sized for each living being.

But are all these descriptions not just symptoms and fruits of Life? Maybe Life is that causal catalytic spark that then ferments all sorts of mysterious exudates, like yeast in a wine barrel.

My brilliant spiritual director Andy task me to do Roberto Assagioli’s dis-identification exercise daily. It goes through sets of reflections, starting with: “I have a body, but I am not my body.”, moving through to: “I have feelings, but I am not my feelings.”, “I have a mind, but I am not my mind.” etc…

This acts like a scoop that scoops off all of Life’s exudates. What remains is much more mysterious. More causal. More primal. What’s left is a gift. It is the tiniest, most primordial pre-event magic. It fills the universe and was there before the big bang. It is weightless, shapeless, and immaterially immortal. Pregnant with possibility, charged with potentiality, and unending in power. Indued with wisdom and purpose. When that spark stops, all the ensuing dominoes stop falling and fluidity sets to rock hard rigidity.

Since this Life charge is commonly shared by all the living, but expressed in multiplicities of inventions and diversities. It is not boring, not static, not rigid, not impotent, nor ugly. Passing through our distorting filter bodies, mind lenses and emotional corruptions, it may get twisted, loose its harmony, and uglify its own potential. But Life itself is that pure and generous gift. The endowment that kickstarts it all.

And Jesus wept at the grave of his mate Lazarus, because he lost that little, tiny seed of God. We who still contain what trips these fermenting, bubbling and exudating forces are blessed to make happy our Donor by just being alive.

Sitting absolutely quietly for as long as it takes to steam off the ensuing energy, eventually quiets us to glimpse that which precedes all animation. And that single brief glimpse warms through all channels of our ‘me’ simultaneously. Stilling the internal fractured struggle back to peace.

But look even deeper, go beyond this gifted primordial seed. See the love that motivated its unconditional granting. Love that knew we may abuse, distort, and fumble, but still imparted the seed of itself. And then joy comes.

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Andy Lyde
Andy Lyde

Beautiful reflection, Joe.


Joe de Swardt
Joe de Swardt

Thank you. The John O'Donohue quote is particularly worth chewing on.


Stephan Vosloo
Stephan Vosloo

This is SUCH a brilliant reflection. Thank you for applying your mind to this indefinable topic and coming up with this. I cannot shed any light on the topic really for when we try to find the words to describe the indescribable we discover that some things cannot be described. Anne Hillman says, "Language must eventually betray reality..."

John O' Donohue:

"There is a place in the soul that neither time nor space nor any created thing can touch. What that means is that your IDENTITY is not equivalent to your BIOGRAPHY, and that there is a place in you where there is still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you".

Thomas Merton:

“At the center of…

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