“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Like much of Greek philosophy, that misses the real point. The truth is that if you are not present and invested, if you are not engaged, you are not really alive. Boredom and pain and risk can come with being alive, but they also exist when denied and life is gray.
Many things drive people away from the present. Grief, especially with the death of a loved one or a job, can cause a loss of capacity for doing. Some losses have measurable impairment that can be measured in terms of years. Chain together a number of those losses (jobs, engagements, dead children, and other disappointments) and it can become almost a default status or way of being. You have probably seen that in someone who was, in the colloquial phrase, “beat down.”
In loss people become even more aware of their limits, how everything that they do takes, or can take away, from everything else. Just by living some people find themselves withdrawing from life, either setting limits or mindlessly throwing themselves into new engagements or activities without worrying what they leave behind undone. One disengages from the outside, the other disengages from the inside.
Many, many men, as they grow older in the workplace, become disengaged from just about everything. When you hear an older friend talk about a father with a factory job who ceased to interact with the family other than to tell everyone to be quiet at dinner, you’ve heard a common story.
Finding a balance, a way to keep people present and invested, to keep them from refusing to become engaged or to not accept new tasks without regard for those they should be engaged with, is hard (any time someone starts missing children’s birthdays for a church calling they’ve just taken … they are accepting a new task without regard for those they should be engaged with), can be very hard. Any flaws in an approach are made more severe by grief or loss.
All of these issues are a result of not being present and invested. They are what happens when one is not awake and alive. Finding a way to be present, becoming invested again, is a return to life and a recovery from loss. It reminds one that life is worth the risk of living.
Now, traditionally women would invest in their children, men in their jobs and both in the community and each other. As the economy has shifted, with factories, smaller families (and those not living together) and more options, there has been less engagement. We live in a world where being invested in people, community and life is less and less common.
What do you do to keep life worth living? How do you keep invested in life and in God?