From the Love of Wisdom She Led me to the Wisdom of Love.
Yanni: Love Is All Comment on Youtube: “I dont know why the song make think about death, about my last day on this planet.....Strange feeling.... all my life pass as a film front of my eyes”
Palliative Care Week 1997, Mt Olivet Thanksgiving Ecumenical Church Service Talk By Jack Carney
As to the meaning of life, I can put it in one word: Care. Which is what I suppose we are here about this evening as people who have received care as well as have given it. I would ask you to consider whether it is ever possible to solely either give care or receive it. Care, I think, can only be a mutually reciprocal affair.
Care given is care sought and brought out of us by another and as such it can be as much or more a surprise and gift to the giver as it is to the receiver. All true carers know this as their natural activity without having to think about it.
But it is the job of the sticky beak philosopher to ask the centipede to examine how it walks. Then to try to talk it through its paralysis of confusion as to which leg to move first or next while it comes to terms with the consciousness of what it always did before unconsciously.
So I will try to act as a catalyst of consciousness with you concerning care and life. I think the reason why care is the meaning of life is because human life - the human condition - is fundamentally, incurable.
Let me use an analogy to explain. Just as there is a medical classification of "incurable" that applies to an individual unable to be saved from the inevitable progression of a disease that will lead to their death; so too there is a philosophical classification of "incurable" that applies to humanity's nature and condition as a whole. We are born into an incurably terminal condition or terminally bound.
Which is to say that each of us as sharers of the human condition are unable to be saved from the inevitable progression of a life process that will lead to our death. There is no cure for life ending in death. There is only the living of this condition as caring for each other as terminally bound sharers. So what will each of you do with this diagnosis and prognosis?
Will you be conscious of what is actually your human condition? Will you come to terms with the birth and death terminals of life and live a careful life of caring? Or will you as many of us tend to do, repress that consciousness and continue as if you will live forever or be saved by science or religion or a career, and thus live a careless life of self-pleasuring waste or of quiet desperation?
To accept the common human condition is to accept that you are not an exception; and because you share, you care. You express the reality of the interdependence of life by caring.
We only care for what we value and we only value what gives us meaning. Thus the true carer cares for the personal meaning of the cared for one's life because it gives meaning to the carer's own life.
I believe the thing every human being seeks is to live a life of meaning and value. Which can only come when we communicate the value and meaning of our personal life to another in exchange for theirs. To illustrate what I mean I have made the word CARE into an acronym which reads:
C for Connective
A for Acting out of
R for Reciprocal
E for Exchange.
Thus care is the connective acting out of the reciprocal exchange of one person's value for that of another's. What we fundamentally communicate is the meaning and value of human life, that is, care. When we do not so communicate, we feel meaningless because we are left without the means of meaning, which is other people. Our meaning can only come through mutually caring relationships.
I think many of us today are living not only beyond our financial means but also beyond our human meaning.
We cannot only not make financial ends meet but also we cannot make our terminals of birth and death meet appropriately and enrichingly.
I think that until we accept the terms of the human condition and consciously bring our ends to meet one another, we will continue to live lives that hunger for more meaning.
JacKath, Two as One, One as Two
Brisbane, Australia, 1993
We will tend to remain disconnected and isolated from one another and driven to find virtual substitutes for the reality of human relationships. We will continue to avoid the pain of separation from our personal life sources by pursuing bodily pleasure, wealth, power, fame or whatever else we do to entertain the emptiness.
It is most difficult to be cured of our need to believe there is cure for the terms of life. It is hard to grow up and become responsible for our common condition and recognize we must care for one another because we are all interdependently vulnerable.
The true meaning of the word "vulnerable" is wound. When we face the meaning and value of life in the light of the meaning of death, we also then face our vulnerability and the fact that we are walking wounds.
We are whole halves and we bleed with the vulnerability of our being torn at birth from our original unity. The cry of pain at birth is echoed in the cry of pain at death.
We are born into our separation and we seek our unity thereafter. Beginning with our mother we cry out for others to return this necessary outflow of our separate life as the social circuit wherein we nourish each other mutually.
If we remain alone we bleed to death of meaninglessness or the non-communication of our common human meaning. What we really exchange in the marketplace or anywhere else is not money or goods but the good of human life.
I think the ultimate connection of intimacy most of us are seeking we hope to find in our spouse. When we find our completing other half we fuse to make that whole which frees us to be more than we could be alone.
Our wound is then able to open fully into the other's and it is in just such a relationship that we are truly healed. We become the life force we circulate and the value of the relationship rises above that of the separate participants. Such an intimate meeting and exchange over time extends our sensitivity as openness to life in general.
Of course, a beloved one may die. Our immense gain then turns to immense loss and pain. This is the reality of the human condition. As James Lynch wrote in The Broken Heart, "The ultimate price exacted for commitment to other human beings rests in the inescapable fact that loss and pain will be experienced when they are gone....It is a toll no one can escape and a price that everyone will be forced to pay repeatedly. Part of the human dilemma is that the same companionship that keeps people healthy can also seriously threaten their health when it is taken away."
It is when our closest loved one - whether spouse, parent, children, best friend - becomes terminally ill that we have the fearful opportunity to face the fact of our own vulnerability and the reality of our common human condition. In the terminal living process (note that I say "living" rather than "dying") we are forced to confront our connections to life or the lack of them.
We do this - if we do it at all - through the threat of these connections removal from us as the absence of loved ones. Relationships that were taken for granted may now come to seem absolutely precious. We can use the terminally ill situation - if we are fortunate enough to have found the right enabling conditions - to turn to personal relationships as our main task in life.
Kathy's Song--lyrics Paul Simon, singer Art Garfunkle