Sometimes I go outside to sit on my chair in my yard and eat lunch. It’s the same flowers, the same ground underneath my feet, the same as yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Or I’ll play piano and say so what? So I can play this piece a little bit better than yesterday. Is that what life is all about? What is the point? Those are the times I have lost my consciousness.
Then I wake up to a higher consciousness. No! Nothing is ever the same. I will never pass this way again.
I look around with new eyes. Everything is vibrant, shifting, renewing itself. The aliveness of all-that-is as it moves within me and through me and around me moment by moment is palpable.
What does it mean to be human? To be human is to rise to a higher state of consciousness, to transcend the self-absorbed self, to reflect on where one’s life is going, to live with meaning and purpose, to be a free agent capable of meaning-driven choices and to answer the call to respond to life’s questions.
But that is not all. To be human is to be a singular one-of-a-kind individual within a greater whole.
In a mosaic...every particle, every individual piece of stone is incomplete, imperfect as it were, in form and color; its meaning follows only from its use in the whole. If each of the tesserae contained the whole – like a miniature – each could be replaced by any of the others. A crystal may be perfect in its form, but for that very reason it is replaceable by any other specimen of the same crystal form; one octahedron is like any other...
Just as the uniqueness of the tessera is a value only in relation to the whole of the mosaic, so the uniqueness of the human personality finds its meaning entirely in its role in an integral whole. Thus the meaning of the human person as a personality points beyond its own limits, toward community; in being directed toward community the meaning of the individual transcends itself...
An individual existence not only must have the community in order to become meaningful; vice versa, the community needs the individual existence in order for it itself to have meaning. Therein lies an essential distinction between community and the mere mass. Far from providing a frame of reference for the individual existence, the mass does not tolerate individuality…The meaning of individuality is submerged in the mass (while in the community it emerges)...By escape into the mass, man loses his most intrinsic quality: responsibility…True community is in essence the community of responsible persons; mere mass is the sum of depersonalized entities. (The Doctor and the Soul, Frankl, pp. 70-73)
In short, every individual is unique and irreplaceable. Personal meaning is found through the unique space one fills in the world.
We learn from ancient wisdom:
Therefore a person was created singly, (a) to teach that anyone who blots out one human life has blotted out an entire world and anyone who saves one life has saved an entire world. (b) for the sake of peace, so that one person will not say to his friend ‘My father is better than your father’ (c) to demonstrate God’s greatness, because when a person makes many coins from one seal they all turn out alike but God imprinted in every person the seal of the first man, yet no two people are alike. Therefore each and every person must say ‘The world was created for me.’ (Sanhedrin 37a)
We can rephrase this as follows:
a) Each of us is complete, a miniature of the whole
b) We all belong to one family, are similar in our basic human-ness
c) Yet, we are each different, and our differences do not inherently point to chaos but to one creative force that has produced a beautiful mosaic
d) Thus, each of us is responsible for our greatness. There are feelings and circumstances and a face and perspective that belong only to me. There are tasks and responsibilities that only I can perform. Even if other people do similar things, no one can do it the way I can.
Furthermore, my engagement with life today is not the same as yesterday and will be different tomorrow. I will never pass this way again. The unique configuration of events will not repeat itself. Even the people I encounter will be different. They will have changed ever so slightly, and I too will be a new person.
In the next blog I will share a meditation based on these ideas.