There is nothing like a change of scenery to provide a renewed perspective, and this journey has done that for me. It has caused me to return to life's basic questions: What is going on here? I mean, really, what is this all about? Who are we, and what is the purpose of life?
Are we simply biological beings, living out a basic formula? Is that all we are doing here? And if so, what is the formula? Get a job-get a spouse-get a kid-get a house-get a better job-get a grandkid-get a pension-get a disease-and get the hell out? Is that it? With a few deviations allowing for individual life paths, is that roughly the game plan? And if so, is there a point?
East Asia (or just about any part of Asia, for that matter) is the place to be if you want to run into humanity. There are so many people in South Korea and in Japan, and so little land, that the only way to go is up. Both nations are dotted with row upon row upon row of apartment buildings, most of them 15 to20 stories high, spaced at what seems like arm's reach of each other in look-alike, dull gray, concrete forests.
Sprawling open-space communities of individual homes with manicured front lawns and barbeque grill bedecked back yards are not very easy to find here.
The streets and shops are almost always teeming. Traffic nearly always heavy. There are people everywhere. Thousands of them. And the gap between those who are doing reasonably well and those who are not is enormous-wider here than anything I have seen in the United States or in Europe. It's similar to what I see in Mexico or in Africa.
The income delineations create a huge division, evidenced in an enormous lifestyle shift from one population group to the other. Gleaming black limos bend around street corners holding make-shift tents of plastic sheeting and cardboard, from which toothless peasant vendors sell meats cooked quickly, on the spot, as street snacks for hungry passersby on their way to more gainful employment.
In so many places on our planet, this scene is repeated. And in so many places on our planet the life formula is not job-spouse-kids-house, etc., it is simply struggle-struggle-struggle to survive. Day in and day out, in an endless cycle that has got to make not only those living it, but those watching it, wonder: what is the point of this?
Survival, for most of the world's people, is first on the agenda every morning, last on the agenda every night. An evening at the opera? Strategizing about stock options or home purchases? Debates about whether to trade in the car this year or next? Whoa, that is so far from the experience of so many of the people that I saw yesterday that I feel a vague sense of shame even thinking about it.
I shouldn't be ashamed, of course. I shouldn't feel ashamed that I've got more-unless, of course, I'm squandering it. Then, I think, a bit of shame might be due. Hell, it might even be healthy, in some weird, back-handed, reverse-English way.
How dare I, as I ride by this scene in the back of my driver-provided limo, spend one minute on something that doesn't matter? How dare I take the awesome gifts that Life has offered, and the talents that God has given, and use them to produce more plastic and glitz and cultural trash and social garbage that will mean nothing to anyone at all ten minutes from now?
I can't. I won't. I've got to get on with it. There's a world to change. Isn't that what I was sent here to do?
All of this leads back to the original question, doesn't it...
Hmmm....what IS the "purpose of life"?
Well, Conversations with God says that life has no purpose, save the purpose we give it. That's the beauty and the wonder of it. God has not sent us here and told us what to do. God has sent us here and said, You tell me what you want to do. But make it good. Because out of what you decide, you define yourself.
Every act is an act of self-definition. We are a piece of divine art in the making. We are creating ourselves, even as we go. On the fly, as it were.
And so each day I get to ask myself, is this the me that I want to be? I get to watch myself, to look at how I focus my energies, at how I use my gifts, at how I spend my resources, at how I take all that I have been given and use it in the act of pure creation. I get to observe myself from moment to moment, and see what I'm putting into the world. Each day I get to look at that, and say, is this the me that I want to be?
I get to ask myself, what have I done today to benefit humanity?
I am reminded of the extraordinary statement that has been the ruling morality of my life: "Of those to whom much is given, much is asked."
I have been given so much. Have I also given back the much that has been asked?
© 2019 ReCreation Foundation - http://www.cwg.org - Neale Donald Walsch is a modern day spiritual messenger whose words continue to touch the world in profound ways. His With God series of books has been translated into 27 languages, touching millions of lives and inspiring important changes in their day-to-day lives.