“On a grass roots level we say that man can touch more than he can grasp.” Gabriel Marcel
Marcel believed, as do I, that more than just the physical world exists. How might the physical world be distinguished from the nonphysical world?
In my most ecclesiastical moments I might be pulled into thinking that life in this physical world is merely to be tolerated or endured considering the ongoing atrocities all around the world. In more glorious moments I want to wring it for all its wondrous worth. What is the meaning in life, exactly? What is the meaning in death? Life and death are not merely meaningless. What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? Haven’t we all at some point wondered what the most real meaning is? What we are here for?
We have been asking these questions throughout time, since Solomon the sage philosopher asked them for the first time. He had everything in the world that he thought he wanted yet those things did not procure the meaning he longed for. Certainly meaning must mean more than the pursuit of happiness. More than having good health. More than having money or power. More than being brilliant or beautiful or the best at whatever you are best at. More than living without atrocities. More than things going so-called-well. Often, things do not go well at all; they go terribly wrong.
What is the ultimate goal or purpose or value of our one precious human life? Whether in the physical world we can see and touch, or in the nonphysical that we cannot see and touch – but is perhaps the most real? Is there a difference?
Ecclesiastical moments are an agitating gift. They confront us with very important questions. How will we know meaning unless we have felt the utter despair of meaningless? Even in writhing despair, it is possible to still believe in God yet not know why you are living. It may be a squirmy-squishy uncomfortable but let us squirm in it and pay attention rather than be determined to define and declare forced meaning in such things as what we do or what we possess.
But it is a complex world so we grasp. Only, we don’t.
We struggle and scuffle. We grapple with what we believe and what we don’t believe. What is the truth about meaningfulness? In the grappling we discover meaning is not something we can control. Not being in control does not set well with many of us but meaning must be gift. Meaning must be love; an eternal, real love that becomes more fulfilling, not less.
It is God who defines this love. Can we ever really grasp God? Maybe we get glimpses. Ultimate reality is the essential nature of God as He is in Himself, not just in relation to us. Can we grasp that? Even just a little?
Whether your faith is a mustard seed or a full formed force, keep grappling. Embrace the questions. They are infinitely important. Seize a strong hold and hang on without hesitation to the sticking place. The sticking place of courage. Of a love that will not fail. An eternal, meaning-full, self-giving love that is stronger than death.
We are a sagacious lot. Intelligent. Knowledgeable. Sensible. Discerning. Judicious. Perceptive. Shrewd. Insightful. With an intellectual hold, we tend to clutch what makes us comfortable but maybe what we want so much more is to meaningfully touch the tender part of another precious life. Right in the middle of an atrocious, questioning, wondrous world. To be a person who does not just tolerate or endure life but embraces the mystery, the sufferings and the joys. Who, outwardly and inwardly, exudes something essentially creative – like being alive with the capacity to love in the middle of a messed up world. Without reluctance, letting our nerve endings in and under our skin register life and love’s presence. Because so much of the time, we feel its absence. Which keeps us wondering about the truth of the meaning of life.
There are holy-life-giving ways of touching another and there are unholy-feels-like-death ways of touching another, both physically and nonphysically.
There is the literal sensation of physical touch.
There is also the nonphysical sensation of touching another. It is even possible that we can be so alive in a nonphysical way that we may participate in the creative act of touching another’s soul by the way we love them and are present to them. In the midst of the mystery, the brightest joys and the deepest sorrows in and around each one’s world, these human encounters of transcendent-touching-loving-presence can happen.
We may reach out eagerly, yet remain unable to fully grasp or comprehend life, or God, or fully understand the eternal meaning of things. We are able to be faithful anyway to love, to reach out and touch the tender parts of another with the same faithful, fervent intensity that God reaches out to touch the tender parts of us; with His eternally infinite, total self-giving love.