Excellence Reporter: Will, what is the meaning of life?
Will Clipman: That’s a question with no answer! I believe that what makes a lifetime meaningful, moment by moment, is to continue to ask the question. The more certain one is that one knows the meaning of life, the further one is from realizing it. By the same token, the more open one is to the endless revelations of each day’s ordinary miracles, the closer one comes to achieving oneness with all.
Of course, when one finally crosses that threshold, the individual self—with all its attachments and self-sustaining fictions—is instantly extinguished, and there is no more me in meaning. We receive intimations of this all-encompassing oneness in those moments when we lose ourselves in art or nature or love or work or play, or in simple acts of unpremeditated kindness, generosity and compassion.
That unmistakable glow at the core of our beings—that selflessness — is something we immediately recognize and cherish and wish to grasp and hold on to forever; yet the more tightly we squeeze it, the more evanescently it slips through our fingers. But then, when I open my hands and find them empty, I don’t feel loss; I feel the inexhaustible vastness of possibility: the potential of that which hasn’t yet happened, the essence of that which has not yet become.
Perhaps the question is whether meaning is to be found in the life we have already lived, or in the life we have still to live? One can rest on one’s laurels and revel in one’s accomplishments and possessions; or one can immerse oneself fully in the present moment as it relentlessly unfolds into the future, and meet that unknowable reality with fearless wonder.
A tall order, one I haven’t filled! I suppose hope is the irrational belief that I still might, and I’m grateful for all those mysteries that are meant to be embraced rather than solved.
When I look up into the night sky and contemplate the physical fact that I am made of the same stuff as all those unimaginably distant stars, some of whose lights are just now reaching me billions of years after the stars themselves have been extinguished, I feel not diminished and insignificant but enlarged and meaningful . . . and if I’m completely honest, maybe a little bit sad and lonely to be so close to it all and still so far from home. And then I smile!
~Will Clipman is a percussionist, poet, performing and recording artist, maskmaker, storyteller and educator. He is a seven-time GRAMMY® Nominee, including his solo album Pathfinder, and his pan-global palette of percussion is featured in his performance and workshop Planet of Percussion®. Will’s poetry is widely published, including his book Dog Light. His masks and mythopoetic storytelling are showcased in his workshop and performance Myths & Masks®, which is now available as a DVD. Will has conducted over two hundred artist-in-residence programs for elementary, middle and high schools, community colleges, senior centers, adult and juvenile prisons, hospitals, libraries and retreat centers. His work as an educator has been recognized with an Arizona Commission on the Arts Decade of Distinguished Service Award and two Governors’ Arts Awards nominations.
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