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One of the best ways to change your perspective on life and view of reality is to speak intelligently with a child. Or, rather, to treat the child as an intelligent being and listen. The questions a child asks, the insights that they naively transmit can halt and humble us.
From our first glimmer of consciousness, the human is conditioned not just to survive and reproduce but to question, seek meaning and long for fulfilment. I sometimes think how much easier it would all be if we didn’t have this conditioning because the questioning, seeking and longing also bring discontent and suffering. Not surprisingly there is an industry today, called tourism and entertainment, that allows us to step out of this human burden and fantasise that we can be happy just by consuming what we desire. Nothing, then seems more wonderful than getting hooked on a Netflix series or even, more sadly, worse forms of addiction and denial.
A young visitor once told me how he had been revelling on a hedonistic trip on beaches in Thailand, with a new girlfriend and other friends. Lying back on the golden sand, he thought to himself ‘this is the life’ and then, as if the floor had been suddenly pulled out from beneath him, he realised it was not enough, not what he really wanted. Questioning, meaning and longing returned.
I am not saying life can’t be enjoyable or we always have to be serious. Far from it, as I am a hedonist myself. But that whatever we are doing, working hard, chilling out, or questing and longing we, being human, need to be open to the vastness we are travelling through and part of. We cannot hide from what is hidden in plain sight to the human mind.
Our search for meaning and fullness will never be satisfied. For all our questions, there is no final answer. We can never see light but we see everything by light. Psalm 36 contradicts this: ‘In your light, we see light,’ it says; and wonderfully and maddeningly both are true. The horizon is a boundary we can never reach because we always go further than we think possible. Happiness is forever elusive and forever inescapable. The ego’s need for closure and control will forever be frustrated.
What does this mean? That God is with us in our basic humanity, within our humbling limitations. In a tumbling world, when things fall apart in our lives, there is inescapable reason for optimism.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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