Against all conventional wisdom, and some that's unconventional, I do most of my deep thinking at night, just after the lights go out. It's good I'm capable of thinking deeply - considering I was born blonde - but starting an internal dialogue about philosophical issues isn't something you should start as you're trying to fall asleep. Too much thinking gets all those pesky neurons firing, the squeak of the rusty gears engaging, and puffs of steam bursting forth from the ears, revving the mind into action. The result is hours' spent tossing and turning, my mind unable to switch off and let me go to sleep. And, when I do drift off to sleep, inevitably my husband will turn over in his sleep and snort directly in my ear, startling me awake, activating my fight or flight instinct. Adrenaline pumping, eyes popping out of their sockets, it takes me at least an hour to slow my breathing enough to even get close to falling back asleep.
Yesterday my doctor gave me an asssignment that's basically a philosophical exercise. She also ordered me – in no uncertain terms – NOT to work on it right before sleep. The assignment? Think of at least one purpose I have in life, i.e., one reason the Universe, God or whatever creative force thought it behooved him/her/it to plunk me down on this planet. When she asked me that question in my last session it went something like this:
Doctor: Why does your life have value, no matter what human mistakes you make, however you think you don't measure up, etc.? Why do you think you're here?
Lisa: To be used by other people.
Doctor: (pauses, raises eyebrows) Ummm… That's not what I was thinking. Try again.
Lisa: To be God's whipping girl? To be the plaything of a malignant force? To be a cog in the stationary wheel going nowhere, like a hamster in a cage?
Doctor: (eyes popping out in disbelief, eyebrow twitching) Seriously?
Doctor: Well … Let's make that your homework. Come back with at least one answer that doesn't make me want to burn my diplomas.
What does she expect from me, that's my question. I'm not here to solve any of life's great problems. Maybe I'm here to give birth to the person who does that or something else that's great, but that egg could have belonged to anyone. Me, not even a speck of dirt in the whole, vast Universe? How can I have meaning? Unless I'm really missing something, my one, little life doesn't mean a damn thing.
I don't say this to evoke feelings of pity. Rather, to say I think it's rather selfish to imagine one's life as having this huge MEANING, that one is indispensible, that without me anyone's life would have suffered such a disruption as to change the course of humanity. I will grant I make a mean meatloaf, but is that reason enough for my creation?
I believe it's good to spend a life in service to others, to live a kind, gentle Christ-like life. And that's all well and good, though of course we can't achieve that standard of perfection. And anyway, that's not me, either. That's not to say I don't do good deeds, or don't care, but I spend most of my energy trying to escape people, as I've come to associate them with using and brutalizing me. I've looked in the mirror to investigate whether there's some coded message there to those who enjoy being douchebags, saying, "Convenient Victim!" So far no luck, but next I'll try an infrared light like those they use to find bodily fluids.
If I had it my way I'd be a hermit, or some version of a cloistered nun, so long as it's okay to have serious doubts about a deity. Of course, I'm not cloistered. I live in a world populated by actual people, but no matter how hard I try I draw a blank as to what significance my single life has, why my one life has any MEANING attached to it. What purpose do I serve that someone else couldn't?
And this would be one reason I'm an insomniac. If anyone out there has a thought on why individual lives have a purpose, an importance, a MEANING, let me know. And, P.S., I hope this doesn't make anyone jump off a bridge.