indeed, why ask why?

“People say that we’re searching for the meaning of life.  I don’t think that’s it at all.  I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences in the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.â€?  – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Nike had a brilliant ad campaign to inspire people to action.  The commercials asked the question:  why ask why. Just do it.

Why do we search for meaning in our being here?  Why do we question what our lives are for?  Why can’t we be happy just to be?  The ancients tried to make sense of the world by finding out how things worked rationally.

So in the beginning man worshiped the sun and the moon and mother earth and all these things were gods to them.  They used the gods to explain why things happened the way they did.

And then something happened.

People decided to test the system.  What would happen if I didn’t sacrifice my goat to appease the thunder god?  When nothing happened man said ah.  So what makes thunder happen then?

We began our search for how our world really worked.

In the 17th century, the age of reason, we went in search how things worked using reason to understand how our world worked.  In the 18th century, the age of exploration, we went in search of where we were on the planet.  We went in search of the physical space in our geography.  In the 19th century, the industrial revolution, we went into what to do what with the knowledge we had gained and built big factories and machines to harness what we had learned.  The 20th century became the age of me.  People went in search of a better lifestyle through brokering information and gaining personal power through material wealth.  In the 21st century, we find ourselves searching for meaning again.  Why am I here?  There is sense of lack of spirituality.  The 21st century has become the age of self-help.

The search for meaning is gnawing at our minds.  It is the splinter in our mind’s eye that is sending us in search of the question.  It’s the question that drives us as Trinity reminded Neo.  A lot of the people I coach seem to be searching for something – something more out of life.  They look around at where they are now and in terms of material well being they have the things they need to survive and for the most part to live comfortably.

But being comfortable is no longer a comfort.  They want more.  They are tired of being comfortably numb.

In the Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac describes a scene where all the middle-class people are sitting at home plugged into the same television shows, being pumped full of nothing, while characters like Jaffry prowl the wilderness, embracing life.

We don’t want to be comfortably numb anymore.  We want to live on purpose.  What is the point of life?  We marvel at what we have and what we have created yet we cannot understand why we are here.

A growing discontent is out there.  We have books springing up like the Celestine Prophecy that gnaw at the edges of the societal angst that consumes us.  It’s about a lack of spirituality – a lack of understanding of who we are, and why we are here.  We long to find our place and purpose in the universe.

Our comfort zones have become prisons that hold us in place and keep us from reaching our full potential.  I can image the faces pressed against the plastic bubble of our comfort zones as we look out beyond the edge and wonder what our my lives could be like on the other side of this wall?

Echoing Morpheus’ words, we are slave; guarded by walls that we cannot see, or touch, or taste – a prison for our minds


  1. raqwdawgbuffalo November 28, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    necause most folks are not content with looking in the mirror each day and likingwhat they see

  2. Jessica November 29, 2007 at 2:33 am

    I really liked this post — you communicated & condensed the ideas really well. What does it mean if we (I) still view the world like Kerouac did? Was he that ahead of his time or am I so much behind mine?

  3. chesca (exskindiver) December 1, 2007 at 4:18 am

    hi clay,
    don’t zen buddhists put emphasis on living in the “now?”
    this is truly a discipline.
    but i ask you this,
    how can we reconcile living in the now with living with consequences?

  4. Clay Lowe December 1, 2007 at 7:36 am

    I think Chesca if a person is practicing living in the “now”, then there are no consequences because in this context, consequences denotes something that happens as a result of present action. For a person practicing “now” there is no past and no future, both of these states only exist in the mind, not in reality. Only the present is real.

    I believe it is a matter of mental orientation. Most of us, it is said, I never fully awake. At any given time during the day we are either reliving past memories or we are daydreaming or worrying about the future. we are either talking about what happened or thinking about what is going to happen next.

    The only moment that is real is the moment that is happening now. And if we are fully awake and fully present moment to moment, then life is more intense. I think, Chesca, in this sate, a person is at their most resourceful. It doesn’t mean that they forget their past or don’t plan for the future. It means they don’t live in the past or live in the future. The ‘now’ is a state of mind.


  5. Clay Lowe December 1, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Hi Jessica,

    I think neither Jessica. Kerouac gave us an example of what living life to its fullest extent could be like. Unfortunately there is a tendency in the collective society to push people like that – like us – to the margins. If everybody lived on the fringe, who would turn the tools to keep the machine going?


  6. Clay Lowe December 1, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Sadly, Rawdawg, you are right. There are a lot of people who don’t like what they see when they look in the mirror, and there are those who afraid to even look in the mirror for fear of what they might see.


  7. Jason December 3, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Hi clay – good to be back in touch – well if i was to look at this with a purely optimistic hat, one could say this is just evolution clay – and that we are presented with wonderful opportunities in front of us to embrace the age of self discovery and constructively choose a lifes path today that is informed and holistically serves all our needs right now .


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