My daughter Eve arrived just before the snow storm hit. The news weather channel had warned us only a few days ahead of time but her tickets were bought, suitcase packed, and honestly, I had high hopes that they would be wrong again. We had a great time as her few days stretched into a full week. I (of course) was ecstatic; she grew concerned. And after several trips to the airport only to be told to “come back later…”, she arrived safely home with warm southern California embracing her as she debarked.
Eve didn’t, however, take everything home with her. She left me three surprises in the hallway closet for me to find: a thank you note; a hardcover book by Mira Kirshenbaum—Everything Happens For a Reason; and, a tin of drawing pencils. We gabbed on the phone a bit after she got home and she let me know that she wanted to talk about Mira’s book on her next visit round.
So, in anticipation of that visit, I picked up the book and took it with me to one of my favorite places that offers a special Thursday menu of fresh baked Ziti, salad, warm toasted garlic bread, and a drink. I placed the book down on my table alongside of my Ziti and began to read.
I knew right away that Mira’s writing was going to be an interesting challenge because she starts off with asking the most impossible question of all: How do we make meaning of our lives? And, in particular, of the things that happen to us? It’s a gutsy question because world-renown philosophers throughout the ages have asked the same question, phrased a little differently but with the same quizzical musings—what is life all about?
In chapter one, Mira lays her foundation assumptions about life. First and foremost, she believes that meaning can be found; we are not out here like seaweed in the ocean to be washed in and out with the tides. Rather, she offers the insight that “The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self” (p.22). She places emphasis on being a most authentic self. I agree with Mira. Being the best that we can be is important. Being an “authentic” best enlarges us beyond duplication or Xerox copies of each other.
Mira invites us to become a true and genuine human being and put aside petty jealousies, anger, and selfishness. Or, as Peterson in The Message observes about a shammed or faked life: “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness…paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming but never satisfied wants; a brutal temper…small-minded and lopsided pursuits…uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions…” (p. 1609). Peterson says he can go on writing about a wasted and meaningless life. And, I believe him as my own experiences prove both his and Mira’s words true enough.
There is however, one thing that I would add to Mira’s ten meanings she gives to life events and Peterson’s perspectives on the search of an authentic living and that is we can neither do it alone nor can we achieve it simply through reading the books sitting on the shelves of libraries around the world or those stuffed into the bookcases in our homes. We must first open our ears and begin to listen to the inner man of our hearts closely—knowing that it speaks a language different than what we’ve been taught by our culture of material desires. For many of us that is a foreign dialect. And, perhaps more importantly, it comes only in relationship with each other and that by the grace of God.
…next post–chapter two.