Pondering the best uses of life

Posted: Friday, February 08, 2002

People engaged in quiet personal reflection often ponder the meaning of life. Commonly, such reflections come following some significant personal crisis such as a death, a serious illness or some other traumatic event. I've often wondered why it is that it takes such events to put us in the frame of mind to pursue the meaning and significance of our existence. Perhaps, for some, it isn't necessary, but it is most commonly when things don't make sense that we try to make sense of them. When we try there are many ways of asking about life's meaning, but it usually comes to three basic questions around which all others focus. Those questions are: Who am I? Why am I here?, and Where am I going? There are answers to these questions but they don't come quickly or easily. However, it is in the quiet reflective moments when we are really listening that they come.

Who am I? Science tells us we are a chance happening at our origin. There was some protoplasmic ooze that was somehow charged with electricity and life began. Through a process of evolution we became male and female in all the myriad species of plants and animals that inhabit the planet we call our home. I don't believe that. It's an interesting hypothesis. It does tend to propose what I am in a physical sense but it doesn't answer the deeper question of who I am because I sense that I am more than my physical body. In those quiet reflective times there is something in me that reaches out for more than the satisfaction of appetites and passions to a more cosmic significance.

The poet, William Wordsworth, gave us insight when he gave expression to that longing in the thought that, "... trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home." In this idea I have a sense of fitting into a larger plan, and I am part of that plan. There is something deep inside my very being that responds affirmatively to this idea that I am the offspring of a heavenly being, a child of God. In that origin I have a purpose for existence regardless of the circumstances of my physical birth, ethnic or national origin, or economic status.

Every person I have ever associated with has had a hope of doing something significant with their lives. It's true that economics play a big role in our choice of a profession and the use of our time, but if we are honest with ourselves, again in those quiet contemplative moments, there comes the inevitable question of what life is really all about. Why am I living the circumstances I live? Why am I here? If I am a child of God, what is the best use of my life? The specific answers to such questions are as individual as the inhabitants of this planet, but there are some more general reasons for being together here on earth.

Before coming to this earth we learned of a plan of life here on earth. It was explained to us that this earth would be created for us but that we would have responsibilities associated with living here. Some of those responsibilities would entail the receiving and use of physical bodies. Marriage and family are a part of that opportunity. Developing talents and using them in service to others is another. Through proper conduct and healthy living habits, our bodies would allow us to prove ourselves capable of taking on greater responsibilities when we return to our heavenly homes. In the fulfillment of those responsibilities would come knowledge and understanding that we would take with us when we return and give an accounting of the time we live here.

Responsibility brings with it some form of accountability. In management training we learn the concept that when performance is measured, performance improves. When it is measured and reported the rate of improvement accelerates. That may not be an eternal principle, but it seems effective in practice. Simply knowing that there is an accountability seems to impress the idea upon us that what we are doing is important. As in earthly things, there is an eternal accountability and in that accountability a measurement of progress toward the achievement of a common purpose. Where are we going? If, as Wordsworth envisions, we come from a heavenly home, then there must be a return to that heavenly home, and in that return we give a report of the use of our time spent here on earth. The final question that looms before us is, what will our report be?

H.F. "Britt" Gibson is the Public Affairs Director at the Juneau, Alaska, Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints.

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