I am reading a book by Shirley MacLaine called “I’m Over all That” which was written quite recently in her 70s. It is a series of brief reflections on a variety of topics, quite similar to blog posts. Shirley has a reputation for being very open-minded, and she touches on her belief in past-lifes and extra-terrestiral visitors in her book. Although I don’t share those beliefs, I don’t think its crazy to think that way. A lot of belief systems have elements that outsiders find hard comprehend. I see our different beliefs about the nature of the universe as ways to comprehend the incomprehensible mystery of life. Mostly they are imperfect representations of the truth – they each capture some of the essence and miss some of the substance.
You can’t read Shirley MacLaine without reflecting on life and what it all means. I don’t tend to think in terms of reincarnation. Nor do I see myself as being put onto earth for a pre-ordained purpose, or think that life events happen for a pre-determined reason to teach us something specific. I guess this is because I don’t think in terms of a separate intelligence that is setting things up for us outside our own experience. I think more in terms of life as an evolving web of connections. I believe in karma, not in the sense that you will be punished in the future for what you do now, but in the sense that every event has an impact on what comes next. Rather than saying “everything happens for a reason” I would say “everything happens because of a series of inter-related causes”. Each unfolding moment is a choice point that is going to reverberate into the future in one way or another. Our choices are important because the create the shape of the future.
Given that I don’t think I was put on earth “for a specific purpose” I need to find a way to make sense of my experience which can be a basis for decisions about the future. My equivalent of a life purpose, would be a life theme. Although I don’t feel like I have been given a specific life assignment by an external agency, it does seem that my life has reflected certain themes and challenges. Working through these themes has become my life’s work, because thats how my life has played out.
Shirley MacLaine would say that we have many lives, and each has its own lessons that we need to work through. This would be similar some traditional buddhist beliefs. I don’t know if the same soul returns to the world to accumulate learning through many lifetimes, and I am not sure if it matters. I am just going to concentrate on learning what I can from this lifetime. If we all do that, we add to the collective learning of humanity over time, whether it is transmitted spiritually or socially and culturally.
What I like about the idea of a life theme is that it allows me to focus on working with the theme, and to let go the feeling that I have to achieve everything in one lifetime. My life theme is to do with personal development, creativity, spirituality and meaning at a personal level. My gut feeling is that I will be happiest if I accept that, and focus my energies on fulfilling that theme.
My theme – my life – has not been about romantic relationships, marriage, and children. That has never been a focus for me. Every so often I get the idea that my life is not balanced because I haven’t ticked all the boxes. Occasional attempts to go out and find a partner have never worked out because they didn’t come from a deep need to have a partner, or an emerging connection with a real person. Maybe thats a similar story for some other people who are single.
I am going to give some thought as to how I can live out my life’s theme without being sidetracked into trying to fulfil idealised images of the perfectly rounded successful life. I want to focus on the lessons and challenges directly in front of me. Life is like a work of art to be crafted. In the process of creation, decisions have to be made. Many options will be rejected, or allowed to slip by, in order to preserve the beauty of the creation.