remarkable thing is that it is the crowded life
that is most easily remembered. A life full of
turns, achievements, disappointments, surprises,
and crises is a life full of landmarks. The empty
life has even its few details blurred, and cannot
be remembered with certainty.
Hoffer (1902–1983), U.S. philosopher.
Reflections on the Human Condition, aphorism 174
The years go by so fast – what did we do? The
end of any year brings an assortment of TV shows
reflecting on the past year. There are the celebrity
happenings, the health breakthroughs, election
results, and the parade of the famous that have
passed away. But our lives are not reflected there.
What has been important for us? What seemingly
unimportant thing has had a profound impact on our
lives? At beginning of a new year, a new season or a
significant change we are confronted with what we
have left undone. The gym shoes sit unused. The
novel is unwritten. What did we do that we wish we
could take back? The apology we meant to deliver
sits on our desk. We forgot to tell a dear friend we
loved them and now it is too late. We are full of
regrets of the past and hope for something better.
The giddiness of the New Year is bittersweet. We are
reflective, becoming sad - we must leave something
behind. In our culture we can become afraid of the
depth of this sadness. We remember the family
members that are now gone and the friends who have
moved on. Then there is the weight we gained - the
loss of our youthful bodies. We look at the past and
it reflects back to us. Sometimes we don’t want do
look back and see – but we must. Our life’s
reflection provides an opportunity for growth –
transformation. There are things we can’t change
yet there are thing still to do. What can we give?
Narcissus – the flowering of self-absorption
In one version of a Greek myth Narcissus will
live forever unless he looks upon himself. When he
catches his image in a pool of water he becomes
enamored of his image. He becomes so self-absorbed
he withers and dies by the water. Even in the
clearest water what we see is not the whole story;
the image can be distorted. Narcissus looked so
deeply he could not see anything else. His life
became narrow. There was nothing for him to thrive
on. No one else to show him what more life had to
offer. The story continues. At the water a flower
grows where he has died. At first the flower is
considered poisonous but later its medicinal
properties are revealed.
The myth of
Narcissus neatly captures this: one drowns in the
self—it is an entropic state. Richard Sennett
(b. 1943), U.S. social historian. "The Actor
Deprived of His Art," The Fall of the Public
Man, Cambridge University Press (1977).
We do discover ourselves – however we can
become enamored of the image we see. The danger of
looking so deeply is that we lose perspective. But
in order to live we must leave behind this image and
discover our true identity. At first we may be
shocked by what we find. Like Narcissus we may lose
our life only to gain another and we find we can
flower and grow.
Reverence for life
When reflecting on one’s life acknowledge all
that has past – both good and bad. Honor it. Your
past informs your present and gives hope for the
future. In his book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten
Virtue, author Paul Woodruff says this –
"Reverence begins in a deep understanding of
human limitations; from this grows the capacity to
be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside our
control – God, truth, justice, nature, even death.
The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it
the capacity for respecting fellow human beings,
flaws and all." We can’t control the outcome
of our life but we can approach it with reverence,
honoring our traditions and respecting the life we
In examining your life you may find places of
great depth and of lack. Consider some things you
may want to pursue. Benjamin Franklin would examine
his life in great detail. He would review and
acknowledge his weaknesses concentrating his efforts
to improve upon them He was cultivating virtues
instead of vices. You can continue to cultivate
those things that are important while working on the
areas where you may be weaker.
feeling of being hurried is not usually the result
of living a full life and having no time. It is on
the contrary born of a vague fear that we are
wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we
ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we
are the busiest people in the world.
Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), U.S. philosopher.
Reflections on the Human Condition, aph. 156 (1973).
Let’s look at some areas of life that might
Health: Are you taking care of yourself? If
not, what do you need to do to improve your health?
List five ways you can live a more healthful
Love: Are you a loving person? Think about
it. We think about love as a spouse or a girlfriend,
a partner. There is more to love then a committed
partnership. In what ways can we become more loving
Work: Do you love the work you do? Does it
support you or enliven you? If you dream of work you
love consider using the next year as the starting
ground to live that vision.
Creativity: Even if you can’t draw a
straight line we are still creative individuals. Our
society does not support the artistic expression as
it used to do. But we can support ourselves.
Money: I know many people who use their money
for good. The more they have the more they give.
Does your money support just you or the world? No
matter how much or little you make your money can
make a difference.
Reflect upon your life and consider what is
important. What needs improvement? Is your life
filled with busyness but not with substance? Does it
reflect care and compassion for the fellow traveler
on this great planet? Like Benjamin Franklin review
your life not with regret but with strength to make
it better. Look to the future filled with awe at the
possibilities it offers.
These words are
dedicated to those who survived
because life is a wilderness and they were savage
because life is an awakening and they were alert
because life is a flowering and they blossomed
because life is a struggle and they struggled
because life is a gift and they were free to accept
Irena Klepfisz (b.
1941), U.S. Jewish poet and essayist; born in
Poland. "Bashert: These Words are Dedicated to
Those Who Survived," lines 26-31 (1981).
He fell in love
with his own reflection in the waters of a spring
and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that
bears his name sprang up where he died. According to
another source, Narcissus, to console himself for
the death of his beloved twin sister, his exact
counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall
her features. - Encyclopedia Brittanica
Narcissus in Greek legend fell in love with his own
reflection in a stream. He stayed transfixed by the
stream and the gods thought he would die of
starvation so they changed him into the flower to
stay there forever. http://www.flowers.org.uk/flowers/facts/k-r/narcissus.htm
© Copyright 2005 Rev. Sandra Lee Schubert. All Rights Reserved.