Excellence Reporter: Jan, what is the meaning of life?
Jan Kersschot: As human beings, we can look at the question “What is the meaning of life?” from a human point of view and a being point of view. The first one is the personal approach, the second one is the universal view. Let’s see how these two approaches might result in different perspectives – and different answers.
The human perspective (1) is related to the ego, to the identification with our body and mind. We refer to it as a wave in the ocean, which is limited in space and time. The ego believes to be on a journey between birth and death. The mind is focused on the next step, the next job, the next relationship, the next goal. And the goal differs from individual to individual, because we all have our specific genetic code, programming and experiences. All these have created different opinions, beliefs and expectations over the years. And we regularly have to adapt our goals as we move along in life. As a result, most adults have quite different ideas about meaning and purpose.
However, very young children are not so identified with the ego yet. They don’t have much sense of past and future, they worry less about holy versus evil. When they play on the beach, they don’t have much sense of purpose and identity. Life is a play, it’s like a dance. Young children who still live in the moment without labelling everything and everyone, aren’t worrying about the meaning of life. And this brings us to the second vision.
As a human being we also have a ‘being dimension’ (2). The latter is not really a dimension in the traditional sense but rather a common field we share with everyone. It is not individual but universal. We refer to it as the ocean. And its quality is the wetness of the water. This may sound a bit abstract to many readers. How can we as a person – as a wave – ever see the ocean? How can a wave sense its own wetness? How can we recognize our common isness? Isn’t that impossible? The answer is too simple to be true. Let’s have a look together, without using any belief, fantasy or hearsay. It is important that we start from scratch, that we leave behind all the ideas we have believed in the past.
Everybody can say, “I am.” Nobody can say, “I am not.” Everybody is. That ‘naked isness’ is what I am trying to point to. Simply to be. Don’t just read the words quickly, take a moment to be aware of simply being. There is a sense of being here reading these words. It’s the subtle sense of ‘I am.’ It’s the fact of being present, before identifying with the person. And nobody can chase this beingness away. This beingness doesn’t exclude anyone, because everyone can ‘do’ this. It’s so to speak like a big space which includes all of us.
Now let’s have a look at this isness. Where are the borders of isness? Where does this space start, where does it end? It seems that we can’t find its origin, nor its borders. And are there any compartments inside the beingness? Probably not. Please, don’t believe me, check it out. We may find out that we have a private awareness but we don’t have a private isness. This ‘naked being’ or isness goes beyond the person but doesn’t exclude the personal. This isness is therefore described as transpersonal.
But you may wonder where exactly is this beingness? What are its qualities? I can’t show it to you because this beingness is not an object, action or feeling. That’s why it is so hard for me to describe it. It cannot be photographed. It’s not a concept. It’s not something we can remember. And yet it is what we all are. In that sense, it is closer than close. How can something be at the core of what we are, impregnated in our cells so to speak, and yet we can’t observe it?
Because it cannot be captured by the mind, I have to use metaphors to point to it. Like waves in an ocean, we seem separate but we are made of the same substance. We could say that as waves – as persons – we are all expressions of this ocean, and at the same time we are not separate from its wetness. Our individual expression (1) is only a private story within something much bigger (2). And that bigger space is what my words are trying to point at.
From this wider ‘point of view’ (2), the question about the meaning of life cannot be answered. Why is that? Meaning supposes three things: a person, a future and a goal. For an individual, these three seem very real and important, but for beingness these three lose their meaning. Isness doesn’t care about individuality, time or purpose. Beingness doesn’t judge, label or expect. The wave (1) might be concerned about all these concepts, but the ocean (2) doesn’t know about all these. Isness isn’t looking for a project or a meaning, it simply expresses itself in and as the force of life. And this life is a childlike play which is endlessly enfolding and doesn’t require an added meaning.
Life itself doesn’t ask what is the goal of life. The flower doesn’t ask why it produces its perfume. Life is flowing naturally and effortlessly, like a timeless dance.
~Jan Kersschot (°1960) is a Belgian physician who wrote several books on medicine and nondualism. His books are available in more than seven languages. The last book “Beyond” is a compilation of private conversations, interviews and public talks he gave recently in Belgium, Holland, Spain and Japan. It’s available in English, Spanish and Dutch.
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