Nicolae Tanase: Guy, what is the meaning of life?
Guy Davis: This is a trick question… Anybody who says they can tell you is lying. The answer is different for each of us.
It’s the kind of thing that a zen master asks his acolytes, when they come seeking enlightenment.
It’s complicated. To answer it, you have to ask more questions, like:
What is the purpose of life?
What is the function and essence of life?
If a bear shits in the woods, does it smell like politicians? …
(well… maybe not that question.)
I haven’t had my coffee yet, so let’s talk about something easy, like love.
Years ago I saw a Calvin & Hobbes comic strip in which Calvin goes into his parents bedroom in the dead of night, wakes his mother, and asks, “Mom! What is love?” Is it God’s divine energy that occupies the human heart, or is it just a random chemical reaction in the body, like burping, or indigestion? You’ve got to tell me, or I won’t be able to sleep!”
His mother, looking through bleary eyed slits, picks up the clock at the side of the bed and holds it close to see the time which reads 3:30 a.m.
She says, “Calvin, I don’t know if love comes from God, or if it’s just a human bodily function, but whatever it is, it’s all that’s keeping me from killing you right now.”
Ahhh! Alright then! The French press has been pressed all the way down. I’m all coffeed up and ready to go.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
How can the answer to this question be found? Do you chart a course for the nearest tall mountain and climb it? … Or do you just let yourself be blown around like a leaf in the wind until you land somewhere?
I read this book once called the Bible. I stole it from a hotel. There was this fellow in there who was a teacher named Jesus, who used to go all around the place doing miraculous things, like making the blind to see, and the cripple be able to get up and walk away carrying their sick bed. They say that one of his greatest miracles was bringing the dead back to life. My number one absolute favorite miracle was when he turned water into wine, because I figure that doing that, made all the other miracles so much more possible.
Back when I was in 3rd grade, there was a lady named Mrs Hughes, who taught the band and orchestra students at school. She made magic in my life. Even though you had to be in at least 5th grade to start playing an instrument, she brought me into that room full of 5th and 6th graders, stood me up at the podium and let me conduct them, while they played. All I was doing was just waving my arms in front of them, but in my mind, I was Beethoven in front of his orchestra, leading them.
How could she know that I used to stand in our living room conducting music I heard on the radio or phonograph with no one around to watch me? How could she know I used to stand in the corner of my yard beating an old turpentine can with coat hangers pretending I was playing the drums as my imaginary band marched down our street? I’m sure the neighbors must have wanted to assassinate me. Had my parents told her about me, their strange child, who was probably left on their doorstep by negro aliens? Is it possible she could have seen what good that would do me all of these years later? She made magic in my life.
The purpose of life beyond surviving, is to see if we can all coexist without killing ourselves. Is greed a terminal disease? An addiction that supersedes the sanctity of life? Are we here because we are all playing this massive game of Monopoly, where the object is to accumulate and appropriate by any means, all of the property, resources, wealth and land that there is and let all the other players live at best marginally?
Are we here to learn, to be master acrobats, who balance on a ball, but instead of one of us there are many of us? If we let even one fall off. We all go down. (NOTE)- While balancing, it must be remembered that the crops have to be gathered, the children have to be taught, and the dead have to be buried lest they stink up the place. Shelter must be constructed. Means of defending ourselves from one another have to be invented in case any one person or group tries to dominate another. Language has to be invented so that we can tell better lies. Sex doesn’t have to be invented. If you can do it while you’re balancing on a ball, then you get my vote. Religion has to be invented by those who want to control us from having too much sex.
Eureka! That’s it! The purpose of life is to create and perform magic. It is to become a perfect, balancing, skillful acrobat, who does the impossible, and before you die, you have to show at least one other person the secret!
Send in $9.95 right now, and I’ll tell you 12 other secrets of the meaning of…
Ok. You folks can see plainly now that I am a fraud! I wake up every morning, scared, that the world will look behind the curtain and see what an insecure, lying twerp I am..
Back in 1988 I drove a taxicab in New York City to make ends meet. This was AFTER I had starred in a major motion picture called “Beat Street”, and was subsequently a cast member of the soap opera One Life to Live. I had dropped out of college. I had been a factory worker, a fortune teller, a musical performer in nightclubs and had attended a metaphysics class. In that class, I was taught that meditating meant doing something very boring for a long time which slowed my thoughts, narrowed my focus and ultimately resulted in the cessation of thoughts and the expansion of my awareness.
I drove 12 hour shifts, usually starting at midnight. The more I did it, the more something strange began to happen. The driving itself became my meditation. It was very boring I was focused only on seeing potential customers arms raised up to flag a ride. But there is one thing that they didn’t teach me in meditation class. All meditation ends in failure. You see, meditation is like pounding over and over on a locked door until your hands and fingers are bloody and your spirit is crushed because you are certain that no one has heard you. And it is in THAT moment when you surrender to defeat, and accept the knowledge that you are powerless to break through, that another little door appears where you don’t expect it, opens up, a hand reaches through, and yanks you up into a room that you had no idea was there. And in that room, you are all seeing, all knowing, and all powerful.
This happened to me several times while driving taxi. When I entered that state of consciousness, I discovered bliss. There was no more thought. I had direct knowledge of all things. The taxi seemed to know by itself where to go, and I found customer, after customer, after customer. I knew everything. I knew stuff like where all the money in the world came from. I even knew I would make a lot of money that day, but I didn’t care.
It was almost as if the entire planet around me had gone into slow motion, as the taxi made its way on the streets. I don’t remember each time how long I stayed in that state. Minutes, hours, I do not know. There was a profound stillness in me that I had never experienced before.
And then I would come back to ordinary consciousness, with random thoughts coming, lingering, and going, having no memory of where all money comes from! While driving late one Sunday morning, I remember feeling a gnawing hunger that made it difficult to continue. Usually, I didn’t eat before or during most of my shift. And then, that’s altered consciousness began to overtake me to the point where that hollow feeling in my gut became pure energy. This time it was different. Something happened that I could not anticipate. I heard a voice. Not an ordinary voice, nor the memory of one, but a voice from the center of my being. The voice said,
“Open up your life to the light of love.” and it repeated,
“Open up your life to the light of love.” In the state of bliss, one does not react emotionally even to a thing of such beauty, but after it was over, I pulled the cab over and wept.
And so, in answer to the question put to me, “What is the meaning of life?” the answer for me is…
“I was put here to experience utter, miserable failure, followed by the redemption of someone’s love.”
~Guy Davis is a blues musician, teacher, storyteller, film, television and Broadway actor.
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