The Meaning of Life

diagram of a human digestive system

I often read in self-help books and the like that ‘x’ is just a process you’re going through. ‘x’ is usually something unpleasant, like a death, a divorce, a difficult work situation, a bad haircut and the like. I’ve never really understood the metaphor. When I think about processes, I always think of a sausage factory. At the beginning of the process you chop up your meat and herbs, mix them and stuff them in a machine, wrap them up in bits of intestine and eventually a sausage pops out the other end. There’s an input and an output. So how does that fit with grieving? Or dealing with excessive pressure at work? Or a bad haircut? Where’s the input and what’s the output?

This got me to thinking that we humans aren’t really much more than the process that goes on in our digestive tract. We put food and water in our mouth at one end of the tube, process it, and there’s an output at the other end. If we stop putting things in at top end, we’ll be dead within a few days. It’s that basic. We take it for granted that there’s an endless supply of stuff to put into the tube but should the day come when there isn’t enough food or water, all other priorities will fall by the wayside and there will be nothing more to life than trying to provide the tube with supplies.

This got me to thinking that we’re often told to ‘live life to the full’, ‘get the most out of life’ etc. As if the purpose of life is to get all you can – whether it be wealth, power, possessions, whatever. You start life with nothing, and you end it with as much stuff as you’ve been able to accumulate. The one with the most stuff is the winner. But what if life itself is a digestive tube and the purpose of life is to give all you can? What if, instead of us accumulating (digesting) everything you can from life, you are digested by life? When you’re born, you pop into the top end of life’s digestive tract. First up you’re mixed with the other stuff that got popped into the tube at the same time, then together you progress through the tube, giving up everything you have to offer along the way. Eventually, when you’re all used up and have nothing more to give, you pop out the other end and it’s all over. Now that’s a process!

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