This afternoon, I visited the Galleria Nazionale Dell’Umbria. This museum houses some of the artwork Perugia is most proud of. The art is primarily composed of Byzantine and Renaissance period works.
Looking at others’ life accomplishments and spiritual expression is a serious activity. We are given the opportunity to share a part of someone’s life hundreds of years after their death. This leaves our own significance and the products of our own life in question.
In the short time I’ve been here, my friends and I have had time to ask and discuss some of life’s most important questions. We’ve reached the end of our first month abroad and lost the traveler’s high. What are we leaving behind? What am I supposed to gain from these experiences? Why am I here? Not that we’re great philosophers, but I think our ruminations are worth writing down.
These questions come out of the human awareness that we all have an expiration date. There is a fear of the unknown and the imminent. I’ve found that the places of purpose, hope, and buoyancy differ for each person.
Many people turn to religion, art, careers, family, and relationships to find significance. We find something that gives our death a positive outcome; religion. We achieve false immortality; art and careers. Finally, we define ourselves within our sphere of influence; family and relationships.
Other’s take a different path entirely. “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everyone is gonna die,” Morty Smith. The complete lack of significance can be the very thing that gives us the hope and peace to make it through another day.
Personally, the most hopeful phrase I’ve ever read is a line from J.M. Barry’s Peter Pan.
“To die will be an awfully big adventure”.
Peter does not question his life. Life has inherent significance. The products of his life aren’t his to worry about; they’re for those left behind to do with as they please. The final realization is that death is just as much a part of life as birth.
In our subjective experience we feel that if everything is significant, nothing has significance. And that’s just defeatist. The purpose of life is to live. It’s simple. Don’t think too hard about it.