Standing on the university lawns, after a centuries-old ceremony, still conducted in Latin, had officially made me a graduate, so, stretched out ahead of me, the world really was my (insert comedy seafood of choice!).
That was a handful of years ago (I have big hands!), and yet too often I find it sad to look back and remember things haven’t turned out at all how I imagined they probably would. Even if the world is getting along quite nicely without my being a Director of a Structural Engineering firm with the usual family and lifestyle to go with it, I still feel tempted to mourn the decade I lost to chronic, severe neurological disease. Then, the world wasn’t even a value range fish finger to me …
When I was growing up, we might have had teen angst and a wanting to find our place and fit in, but I don’t remember the near ubiquitous beat of society’s drum demanding that I find my “purpose” – or that it is most likely connected to my “popularity” – as it pretty much seems to be now. While I was ill, I was forced to learn the difficult but crucial lesson that our identity is in who we are, not in what we do. We are human beings, not “human doings”. And yet, now that I am mostly recovered and back living in something like the real world, I feel discontentment as I wonder what I “could”, or even “should” (?) be … doing. What would bring me fulfilment? What would make a positive impact on the world or a name for myself? What would pay? What would be fun? What would make me feel valued?
I’m studying Ecclesiastes at the moment, and so far the message is clear. Everything under the sun is meaningless. Vanity. Breath. Vapour. Vapid. And it’s true. In the final assessment, what will have mattered? There are things that feel important, or essential, or desirable, things I aspire to, some things that are good, some things that I’d just want to look good to other people. But what is it that really counts?
When Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength … And love your neighbour as (you love) yourself.” (Mark 12:30)
Whatever achievements I go on to claim in life – whether they are great or small, esteemed by many or seen by a few – I know already that the most important question I shall ask of myself is, “Did I love well?” My family, my friends, my God, my neighbour, my enemy. How have I loved them? And so, day by day, whatever I am doing, this is what I must recall: Did I love them well?