Wherein lies the rub?

by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Discovering meaning and purpose in life has ever been dispiriting and never been effortless. Try getting out of bed in the morning, especially Monday morning. Or even better, a rainy Monday morning! Now there’s a task! If you wish to accomplish the project with anything approaching alacrity, you’re going to need more than a little strength. And here I’m referring not only to physical strength but also to moral strength, that unseen stuff of which real men and women are made! If you’re akin to most of the herd, your expectations are high-principled, something which regrettably only makes the job more difficult – that business about reaching for the stars at a time when you can barely extend your weary legs to the hardwood!

Yet I’ll safely wager that if you were affirmatively to welcome the prospect of what awaited you on the other side of the bedroom door, your motivation would be considerably more aroused. The burden of living is not so much what has come before (if it were otherwise, hang-overs would be a tolerable penalty), but rather what is about to follow. In point of fact, it is far more likely that one will be disabled by the prospect of the future than by the percept of the past. The failures, embarrassments, inadequacies and short-comings which may distinguish our erstwhile personal history will, like so much dust beneath our feet, be washed clean with the benefit of time (not to mention the unfailing predisposition of our reliable friends and colleagues to empathize, something I’m certain you’ll agree we can take to the bank). But left alone to contemplate the distant morrow, watch out!

There is an understandable inertia to lying about one’s bedchamber. The metaphor of the covers is not without foundation. But even prolonged dalliance in the supine will ultimately loose its appeal, replacing complacency with little more than uncomfortable back pain. To horse, I say! To horse!

Here it is that one encounters those nasty bits of philosophy or, what is more probable in the bleary state of early morning awakening, those fears of the cold world that awaits beyond the warmth of the downy feathers. There is nothing comforting about having to face the world (barring of course the purely physical necessity of having to void one’s bladder). Whatever one may have successfully parried throughout the long night, whatever terrifying nightmares one may have forgotten upon the rude start of the day, there will however remain the inescapable confrontation with the proverbial "Why?", or at the very least the less impressive "Now what?" I’ve heard it said that a similar plaintive ecphonesis ("What is the point!") by some renowned French existentialist playwright was met with a concise retort from his cleaning maid, "To pay the rent!", a crushing defeat for the absurdists to say the least. While having to pay the rent doesn’t exactly qualify as inspiring, it does at least have the value of being tangible. The last thing one needs before one’s morning coffee is a lot of nonsense about disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless and absurd world. One may as well check into the nearest clinic for schizophrenia!

 No, no the deeper question is "Wherein lies the rub?", or in plain terms, "What’s the catch?" If one is about to commit to a long-term relationship with life, one is entitled to know what likely disappointment waits in the wings. Granted it is a pity to have to re-enact this particular drama morning after morning, but like so many things in life, courage, courage! One cannot for example expect that such superlative awakenings can instantly unfold and disgorge their pearl as though on demand. It’s a matter of putting the right spin on things, showing off the subject to advantage, putting it all in the proper light so to speak. But as I say this takes time and considerable endurance. And small wonder! When you think about it, what I’m really asking is this: "What is the secret to life?", not exactly a trivial question you’ll concede.

As you may have gathered from something I fleetingly mentioned earlier during the exposition of this thesis, the entire conundrum is made so much less trying if we have an appetite for what follows. Being properly inclined is what I mean to say, ebullience in a word. Now, there is no sense whatever in clinging to all those defeatist reasons you no doubt have stored in your handbag of grief and disillusionment; better simply to eject the collection and bounce into the next frame of existence. I mean, what have you got to lose? One hardly needs to be convinced of the inutility of it all, that’s a given. So one may as well put together a new knapsack of goodies (however optimistic) at the end of one’s walking stick and head off into the sunrise to greet the day! And if that doesn’t work, then get up to pay the rent!