As I write this I am in the late afternoon of my life. There is still sunlight, but the day is nearer to its end than its beginning. That is to say, I am old enough to truly understand how the story ends, for me and for all of us. “Happily ever after” exists only in fairy tales, because for us there is here and now, there are plans and memories, but there is no ever after.
So how, in the face of this terrible knowledge, do we bring meaning to our lives? I am not speaking here about any concepts of an after-life. For me the meaning of life has to exist independently of any such notions. The only way that occurs to me is through action in the moment. I grew up in a very difficult situation, and for a long time I couldn’t find a place for myself in the world. Eventually enough healing took place that I could begin to see the path beneath my feet.
At that point, my most resonant word was redemption. This is a word that has religious connotations as I realize. Any such meanings notwithstanding, to me it means “to realize the value in a thing”, in this case the thing being me, being my life. Slowly another word began to supersede the first. “Grace”. A word that also has religious meanings, and I am sure my definition overlaps with those. If redemption is to realize the value from a thing, grace is the realization of intrinsic goodness. It requires neither action nor explanation. It is the feeling I get when I look up at the stars and think to myself “I love my life. In spite of it all. In spite of the inevitable ending up ahead in the distance. I love my life.
So, if a state of grace requires no action, why do I say that the meaning in life comes from action in the moment? Grace is a quality of being. But humans are creatures of action. We are not like sharks that must swim or die, but we are built to do and not just be. Grace is the foundation that allows me to know what to do, and to be satisfied with the doing. The intertwining of the two, grace with right action, work together to create a meaningful life in the only point that actually exists outside of our minds, here and now.