Learning has always been enjoyable for me. I like understanding why things are the way they are, although, to be honest, I’ve always been more drawn to the theoretical arguments as opposed to the practical ones. For instance, I don’t care very much about the ways that the hydraulics and various mechanical parts of an airplane work. I’d much rather have a discussion about the ethical uses of airplanes in warfare or why people need to fly in the first place. I generally approach machinery with my grandfather’s attitude: if it works, great. If not, you find someone to fix it.1
I’ve always wondered about deeper questions, though. What are we doing here? Why is there pain? Is there a God? Is there a right or a wrong way to live? Why is it important to treat people with respect? Does anything really matter, one way or the other?
With questions like these, it’s no wonder I majored in philosophy in college. The truth is, these days I don’t wonder quite as much. I haven’t found the answers to the questions; honestly, I’m not sure anyone really has, although there are a bunch of really good ideas out there. The reason I don’t think about these questions as much is because I focus so much on the day to day activities that distract me from bigger issues. We all do this, to some extent or another. There are errands to run, bills to pay, jobs to be done, children to care for. I can’t ponder my existence right now; we’re out of milk.
There are still those moments, though, when these questions creep in. I’ve actually found that this happens a lot on those rare occasions when I’m watching the news.2 The world is filled with so much negativity that it becomes easy to throw up our hands and ask, “What’s the point?” Why do we bother plugging along through the daily rat race when we don’t even have the reassurance of a delicious wedge of cheese at the end? I may not watch the news much anymore but I still hear and read about violence in small towns like Ferguson, Missouri and in larger areas like the Middle East or the Ukraine. My own opinions about who is wrong or right in any of these conflicts don’t make much of a difference here. What does matter, though, is how we find the strength to get out of bed every morning to do the things that need to be done.
People cope in different ways. Some look to God or some other higher power and ask for the fortitude to continue through each day. Others keep the faith that there will be a reward coming in the next life and that the way we lead our lives now is our ticket into paradise. I tend to look to my family for strength. My wife inspires me to be the best version of myself and helps me focus on the more uplifting parts of our lives. My son is talking more and more every day and has been using his impish smile and infectious laughter to brighten the lives of everyone around him. Last week I made a quick trip to the supermarket before work and, when Eitan saw me leaving, he yelled, “Kiss!” and ran over to give me a kiss before I left. Then, after he gave me a hug as I was leaving for work, he asked, “One more hug?” and I obliged happily.
I don’t have the answers to the questions we all ask at some point or another. Even if I did, there’s a strong likelihood that the answer that would work for me wouldn’t be as satisfying for someone else. I tend to believe that people go through each day doing the best they can, given their specific circumstances, and that some days are going to be more difficult than others. But we still push through, knowing that bad things are still going to happen all over the world. My hope, at least, is that I can use the love and the strength I get from my family to help make my little corner a little better and that things will turn out all right in the end.
Where do you get your strength from? Feel free to leave your input in the comments section.
1. My grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force as a radio operator. He got through almost all of basic training before someone finally realized he couldn’t be allowed to fly a plane because he wore glasses. Then they asked him what he knew about radios and that was the answer he gave.↩
2. If you’re still a person who tunes in every evening, try this exercise out: count the number of negative stories that lead that night’s edition and see how high you get before you hear a positive story. Last night, Trudy and I made it through three and Trudy said she’d had enough and changed the channel when the fourth came on. I certainly try to be a fairly well-informed member of society but you’ll have to forgive me if I would rather not be thinking about murders, assaults and robberies while I’m getting ready to fall asleep.↩