I loved to study science in my early teens. My mind chewed into physics, chemistry, and biology day and night. Science also justified all kind of toys to play with and test the theories I had learned. I won a science fair for my work with ionizing radiation -- part of which was growing mutated plants and blackening photographic film with radioactive ores. Those were the days of "the friendly atom."
I explored philosophy to go beyond science. I began seeing the power of the mind. Matter itself could just be an illusion of the mind. My first such considerations came from studying Descartes' Meditations. Descartes asked me to doubt everything until I was only left with my thinking mind. At that point, I could say with him, "I think, therefore, I am."
Later I discovered philosophy's limits in the structures of human language and the forms of logic. A physicist from Japan said that in Buddhism there is a way to come to a direct understanding of reality without the intervention of mental concepts. "No matter, no mind!" This fascinated me. So began a mystical and religious quest that lasted many years.
But all quests come to an end. Eventually we must go home and find a peaceful place. Not science, not philosophy, not religion, not mysticism. Just Being. And even these words remove us from the trust, the peace, the freedom, that is prior to all intellectual effort.
For several years I worked under the guidance of a spiritual teacher. My teacher's life rotated around spiritual practice. She meditated, chanted, and did Tai Chi. Her formal practice occupied over ten hours a day.
I asked her what she hoped to accomplish. "Well, you know, I think the only thing I really want to do is to be able to sit under a tree, and know completely that being alive is enough."
Life is its own purpose. All our ideas, love, hate, practice, effort, work, and money are for life. We are here to be alive. Every breath that we take is itself a miracle. For this alone we can be thankful.
Our world culture has become a commercial enterprise, a consumer culture. The basic focus is on production of goods and services. More goods and services mean more jobs. The wages go up; the land values and rents go up. Then we must work harder to keep up with the increase in the "cost of living" or fall backwards into poverty. Such is the basis of the rat race.
"The truth will make us free." So said the master. Confront the truth of life being enough, life being its own purpose. Take time to celebrate life, to worship life -- or surely die the death of our spirits.
As years passed, I found myself obsessed with the acquisition of ever more knowledge. Yet it was clear that the number of books I would have to read in order to grasp human knowledge alone was beyond the limits of my eyes and brain. I finally understood that studying books was not enough. It was living life with awareness which adds to wisdom, not just reading books.
As long as we keep moving around in a dissatisfied disposition, our outward achievements mean nothing. We could be kings and queens and still not be happy and wise. Wisdom comes out of an appropriate relationship to the given situations of our lives.
Ultimately, the question is, "Do I value my life?" Certainly, I experience pain, discomfort, and occasional depression. I fall short of "perfection." Life is a play on the path to perfection. Sometimes we fall back. This is certainly the case in my particular life -- and I have noticed the same with most everyone else. Such is life.