The Unexamined Life
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
There is one phrase I learned 30 years ago in my college class on ancient philosophy and since then I always go back to it. It is a quote from Plato/Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We don’t go through life without a purpose, without meaning. Life has a goal and meaning. For Christians, we believe that the telos or the end of all our thoughts, our decisions and actions must always be oriented to the love of God, and the love of others. But we could easily swerve from that end, and so it is wise to examine our lives and see if we are indeed walking intently on the path that God intends for us. Six years ago, I embarked on a half a year pilgrimage in the sacred places of Holy Land and then in India, Nepal and Thailand. I decided to bring only with me some necessities and it fit in a very small suitcase I could easily carry on my back. But by the time I was in the middle of this journey, I realized that even the little I had was too much, and hindering me in my journey; and so I started to give away things along the way that by the end on my pilgrimage, all I had were two shirts, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes and other minor personal effects.
If you will, one of the enduring images of life is that life is a pilgrimage, a journey from birth culminating in our eternal life with God; and the path, the road, the way to God is love. As we go through this journey, we must be aware of the things we carry in our lives that could hinder us from the way of love. One of the things that could get in the way of love is, of course, excessive preoccupation with money and material possessions. While it need not be, however, we are aware that we can do selfish and evil things because of our attachment to money or material possessions. People cheat on their taxes. Employers cheat their workers of their wages. People forego their responsibility to the poor. As Jesus said today. “Take care. Be on guard against all kinds of greed, for life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
But material possessions are not the only things that could hinder us in our way of love. Many people who are not necessarily rich in money or material things nevertheless possess a great deal of negative emotions or toxic behaviors that make them less loving or that make them difficult to love. A few examples. Some people go through life playing the victim, blaming life and everybody else for their problems, and they wonder why they feel disconnected from life and others. Some go through life with a sense of unworthiness that they deny themselves legitimate pleasures of life, and then they complain that life is lacking joy. Many are attached to their feelings of anger, going around having a chip on their shoulder, and they wonder why people run away from them. Other emotional possessions could include being judgmental, excessive criticism of others, holding on to resentment and hurts. Twenty seven years ago, when I enrolled in social work school, there was a woman in our class who was very critical, very negative, judgmental, moody, and bossy- in short, someone no one wanted to hang around with. She was like a walking time bomb everyone sought to avoid. One day, she said something in class that was off putting, and I guess my ever gentle and patient professor, herself a mental therapist, had had enough. Taking off the hat of a teacher and putting on a hat of a mental health counselor, she gently asked the student to examine herself, saying, “I say this with care and concern for you. I just want you to know that you say a lot of things that hurt and push people away. I want you to examine yourself if this is something you are aware of. I want you to reflect if it is your intention to drive people away. I want you to reflect and examine if you want to go through life scaring people away.” I came away from that realizing that from time to time, as part of our spiritual discipline, we need to examine our lives and see what material and emotional possessions hinder us in this life’s journey of love.
©2017 Noel E. Bordador
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