Excellence Reporter: Aberjhani, what is the meaning of life?
Aberjhani: Years of meditating on that huge question have led me to believe we ourselves are the meaning of life in the sense that we are born with an innate ability to endow it, Life, with meaning. This is not just a clever play on words. We have the option to either empower our existence with love, purpose, and beauty, or allow ourselves to become slaves to ignorance and agony.
Recognizing and claiming the potential to infuse life with transcendent significance is how we gain command of freedom under circumstances which threaten to imprison not just our bodies, but our souls. It is how we access the saving grace of inner peace when surrounded by fellow humans who have become deranged by venomous hate.
So it was that a little girl named Anne Frank could suffer persecution alongside her family but still write in her now famous diary how she believed, “people are really good at heart.” And it was in this way Malik “Malcolm X” el-Shabazz in his youth transformed his prison cell into a study room where he began undergoing his self-engineered evolution from a petty street thug to an internationally-recognized political activist and spiritual leader.
Once, a young man who was very proud of the colorful tattoos on his neck, arms, and legs asked if I had any he could see. If so, I understood, they would communicate to him something about me–the same way the inked names, smiling skull decorated with roses, and eagle’s head were supposed to tell me something about him. I rolled up my right shirt sleeve and showed him a scar covering 65 percent of my arm. Realizing it was nothing like his painted images, he stared with some embarrassment at its dark brown leathery appearance and asked what it meant. I had gotten it, I explained, when as a child I pulled a pot of boiling water off a stove because I was hungry and looking for food. It had taken years and many hospital visits to recover the full use of my arm. Doctors had attempted skin drafts to minimize scarring but it had not worked.
There are many ways I later could have chosen to think about the remaining scar. It could have served as a lifelong sorrow-inducing reminder of the poverty which filled many days and nights of my childhood with hunger. Or: as an adult I might have harbored resentful blame against those in whose care I had been left all those years in the past when liquid fire shredded the skin from my arm and turned me into a mass of screaming fury. Holding on to sorrow and resentment would not have served my life’s developing purposes. Focusing on negatives would have blocked out too many other possibilities: like a free-flowing creativity adaptable to different forms of artistic expression. Or an intense admiration for the way love heroically survives and thrives beyond the numerous wars and domestic tragedies which overflow pages of human history.
Answering the young man, I told him God had given me my scar for two reasons. One was to let me know my life experiences were going to include a lot of pain, so it was best I learn early to master it and not allow it to bully on me. The other reason was to transform whatever pain I experienced into diverse forms of wisdom and beauty which could then be used to help others overcome whatever caused them suffering. Possibly it is nothing more than delusional, or a form of denial, to believe such a thing. It nevertheless has been one of the most effective ways I endow the gift of my life with meanings I hold sacred, and how I anchor myself with love and strength when chaos or malice would see me destroyed. Possibly even more important is having sometimes been able to pass this peculiar instinct, or this intentional strategy, on to others in whose lives it has made a vital difference.
Not all of us in this world can occupy the palaces of queens or the offices of presidents, but affirming with positive significance the trials and triumphs of our individual and collective beings is something we can do. It is not delusional to believe these gleaned affirmations could one day enrich with inspiration the lives of people who at certain crucial moments might need them the most.
The young man with the colorful tattoos said he understood.
~Aberjhani is a cultural arts entrepreneur and owner of Bright Skylark Literary Productions. His acclaimed literary works include the Choice Academic Title Award-winning Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, the modern-poetry classic The River of Winged Dreams, and the 2019 memoir, Dreams of the Immortal City Savannah. His works as a visual artist and photographer have won recognition for their demonstrations of creative social and political advocacy combined with aesthetic and spiritual appeal.
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