The meaning of life: Getting past the unexpected

While things may indeed be sent to try us, that at first appears rude reward for having to take the test.  Which is not to say a life without challenge is to be wished for, but it makes one wonder.  A moment’s reflection however clears the air. The alternative, though imaginable, is so dubious and of questionable sustainability as to be something only Jonathan Swift might have penned.

Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, author, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet, and Anglican cleric who became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, hence his common sobriquet, “Dean Swift”.

Swift is remembered for works such as A Tale of a Tub (1704), An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1712), Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and A Modest Proposal (1729). He is regarded by the Encyclopædia Britannica as the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. He originally published all of his works under pseudonyms—such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M. B. Drapier—or anonymously. He was a master of two styles of satire, the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.

As a result the more germane subject is how to approach the inevitable complications of life, those things we’d prefer to get past. Make no mistake this isn’t a text for any but the brave no matter how predisposed you may consider yourself to be. Indeed the dreadful feature of life’s “situations” is that they are utterly thoughtless of your native resolve one way or the other.

Accordingly it warrants consideration of the rules of universal application in the theme of this indiscriminate crapshoot.  Just how does one get past the unexpected?

For starters there is no easy way; and none of them is guaranteed to work. Having said that much of the success depends upon one’s willingness to accept the reality of the affliction and then to confront it thoughtfully. This is not a psychological option. Life doesn’t really care whether you believe this is happening or not. On the other hand one’s acknowledgement of the obstacle significantly diminishes the intellectual drama to the goal of surmounting it. Getting past the unexpected is business. When your business is done you can do whatever you wish.

So the first rule is, not what is the answer but what is the question?  Don’t be misguided by the apparent simplicity of this stricture. Within every properly framed question lies the hidden answer. For example consider that you come upon a deep forest which extends as far to the left and as far to the right as one can see. You have to get on the other side. How do you do it? Obviously you can choose to plow straight ahead in hopes of immediate success with possibly limitless exertion.  Or you can choose to go around the obstruction with the hope of eventual gratification over an equally limitless period of time. Neither project is assured. And no matter which one chooses there may be additional obstacles along the way.

This brings us to the next item; namely, one must make decisions in life. If, using the previous example, one does nothing, the only hope of advancement is luck which significantly broadens the scope of the game and decidedly removes the feature of personal influence upon one’s outcome in life. If the latter is desired then you needn’t contemplate this account any further because you are beyond direction of any scope or interest. If, on the other hand, you adopt one or the other alternatives (that is, going straight ahead or going around the problem), you convert the dilemma to an issue of personal worth.  Do you wish to tackle the obstacle as offensive to your path in life; or, by contrast, do you wish to step aside and “let the shit go down the street”?

There are inevitably consequences of our decisions. If we choose to fight, we win, lose or draw.  If on the other hand we choose to avoid the confrontation by going around it or stepping aside, we open our path to new ones. The relieving element of getting past the unexpected is not its assurance of a desired outcome but the fulfillment of life’s natural course.  Remember too that no one is spared the unexpected. And no one can expect otherwise. But whatever happens you can be assured that your effort to get past the unexpected will give you more meaning than it takes. And that, like it or not, is the meaning of life.