A few weeks ago I posted on a topic my doctor confronted me with: does life have meaning, and what is the meaning of my life in general? All your kind responses flattered me, humbling me to realize I've touched the lives of so many.
We've all touched the lives of our friends, our family, our children (if we have any), work associates, and everyone else we know - even our enemies and those we encounter every day but never actually know – such as the person we hold a door open for at the post office, someone who either appreciates small gestures of kindness or doesn't even note your simple courtesy.
In all actions – or even inactions - there are negative and positive influences, as well as a chain of events growing out of those influences we'll never realize. The person you cut in front of in traffic may go home to yell at his wife and kick the dog, pushed over the edge by one too many acts of disrespect. Or, he may go home and feel relief he's finally in a place he feels welcome - a calm, restful haven away from jerks like you who think you're more important than he is.
There's no way to know how far our actions and influence spread, and what positive, negative or netural impact everything we do – as it ripples out - has on others. Even the "bad" things we do may help facilitate goodness, just as the "good" things we do may cause negative reactions.
I'm thinking so deeply today as a direct response to having lost a "virtual" friend I've known for years, one I've had more e-conversations with than I can count, one whose courage to follow her own dreams played a role in me feeling I could – and should - follow mine while I still can. How far will my own actions spread?
Isn't it curious we'll never know the answer to that. Even if we're aware of a direct connection some of our own actions cause, we'll never know how far is the reach. It's like the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon." None of us is far removed from anyone. Little things we do could send a wave around the world, especially in the internet age when things spread instantaneously like wildfire. And once our actions get so far removed they're affecting someone who's never known us, that person will never know who is responsible for what he or she is feeling, doing, thinking, acting on. Likewise, we'll never know what chain of events came before the direct link to anything in our lives. Because nothing we do isn't the direct result of everything that's come before.
The complexity of life is astounding. It's as vast a subject as the Universe itself, constantly shifting and changing, expanding yet being sucked inward at an ever-increasing rate, an entity that has no end, so far as we'll ever know. Actually, we are the Universe itself, the Earth being interdependent upon everything that happens throughout the cosmos. Our lives are the result of every other thing that's ever happened or not happened in the history of everything that's ever existed; we're each a part of all the vastness of time and space itself. Only very slight deviations make us human and distinct from other life forms. We all came from the same source.
The cycle of an individual's birth, living and death seems small when you consider one life, but when you ponder the interconnection of literally everything, that gives each life an importance greater than itself. It lends significance to everyone and everything.
Maybe, just maybe, that's the meaning of life. It's neither good nor bad. It just is. And even when one life has physically ended it hasn't, really. The changes each person received or sent on keep reverberating, echoing throughout the Universe, expanding, contracting, always on the move. For as long as anything exists.
And then? It will start all over again.