Brick by Brick
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Brick by Brick • Posted: Apr 17, 2021 13:11:39Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Recent conversations have prompted consideration of how each of us face our own mortality. For some, religion plays a part. For others, not so much. What does seem nearly universal is a need for an end to our life’s story that makes sense to us. We need some semblance of feeling that we’ve accomplished something, something consequential. To let go, we want to believe we’ve mattered, that our life has not been a waste, an abject failure, or total self-delusion.

Given the grinding unrelenting crush of physics, human selfishness, greed, and ignorance, and the limitations of our own failings, we might often suspect hope of finding a satisfying ending to our own life’s story is a futility. But still, we do hope. And, we do press onward, attempting to create that elusive, heartfelt, personally satisfying final chapter, often with sympathetic assurances from those who have gathered round, especially during our final hours. Bless them all.

But, is life really only about the stories we tell ourselves? Even science is not sure. Science has yet to come up with a completely comprehensive definition of life. They puzzle over what exactly the difference is between something that is living and something that is not. Are fungi alive? Are viruses alive? Are prions alive? What about base minerals? Crystals self-organize, grow, adapt to their environment, and reproduce. Are crystals alive?

I once met a woman who would have said “yes” to that last question. She collects and cares for crystals as if they were no different than the plants in her garden. Though not many chemists or biologists would agree with her presumption, she persists. Caring for crystals as if they were alive provides, for her, a story of satisfying substance that her life has meaning, is consequential in a “good” way. A different person may point to a factory he helped build or worked in or transformed into a work of art, or a storefront business she created, lovingly stocked, and ran to serve the surrounding community. Brick by brick we each build our own stories, or own consequence, our own meaning, all toward that final ending that somehow feels about right to us, right enough to eventually feel okay about letting go.

True, the grinding crush of time and physics, and of political and cultural upheaval, may follow right behind us, completely obliterating all our “good” works. And, science may not totally agree that life is primarily about the stories we tell ourselves. But, the drive to complete something to our own personal satisfaction while we still have opportunity persists. It is who we are. It is what makes most of us feel alive. And, it’s what seems missing most when life eventually does come to an end.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018
Turners Falls