Your Life Is a Shrine to Meaning

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 5:30 am

Your Life Is a Shrine to Meaning

I love this poem, and it needs little commentary from me. Behind it lies a question many of us ask ourselves from time to time: Given my small, ordinary, un-famous, and fleeting life, what can I do that’s of true worth and value? Then it offers an answer that I find simple, real, moving, and doable.

I re-read this poem occasionally and ask myself, “Using everything I have — including my own ‘costly gifts of hunger, choice, and pain’ — what can I do today to keep raising the ‘modest shrine to meaning’ I’d like to create with my life?”

Maybe it’s planting a tree, maybe it’s a random act of kindness to a stranger, maybe it’s offering comfort to someone who’s hurting, maybe it’s writing a thank-you letter to a mentor who saw your potential and drew it out…

There’s always something meaningful I can do to honor the gift of life in myself, others, and the world around us. Just do it!

“So?”
by Leonard Nathan

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.

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Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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