Nicolae Tanase: Master Low, what is the meaning of life?
Albert Low: Life has no meaning: but life is intensely meaningful. For life to have a meaning would require that there be two aspects: life without a meaning and a meaning without life; somehow the two must come together for life to have a meaning. Moreover, the meaning of life would always be in the future. and so unattainable in the present.
The idea that life has a meaning is a product of our results oriented society. This means that the process by which we attain a result is a nuisance and to be got through as quickly as possible. For example, washing the dishes is a nuisance: we just want a set of clean dishes. How often does one hear people say, “I do not like the job but it helps time to go fast!er”.
In the practice of Zen we find that many people just want the result: awakening. The process itself, the practice, is then a bore, something to grind through as quickly as possible.
What meaning could life have? To own as much money as possible, to become famous, powerful, to love and be loved, to have to maximum pleasure? All of these are results that could be the meaning of life. Even if we say that the meaning of life is to glorify God, or educate ourselves to progress to higher plains, the meaning of life would still be to attain some result.
When we see life itself as meaningful we will prize the process of attaining a result as much as the result itself. Preparing the water, washing the dishes, drying them and setting them in order in the cupboard will all be meaningful actions and performed for their own sake. Each moment of the day would have its own worth. Impatience, which so often mars a life spent in search of results, would no longer be a problem, nor would boredom be a problem. Boredom arises because we discount the process by which we attain a result.
Life is an ongoing creative process; each of us is the creator. To seek a meaning to life and to this upsurging creativity is like trying to grasp a gap in space.
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