Parish Letter – February 2023 

I often wonder what it’s all about, life I mean. Is it a matter of philosophy? Plato, one of the earliest and most influential philosophers believed the ‘meaning of life’ is a quest for the highest form of knowledge, which he describes as the form of the good; a non-physical heavenly form which is the source of all good and consequently all value. 

Others have tried their luck too, Aristotle, Plato’s apprentice, spent his entire life searching for this answer only to conclude, the ultimate goal was happiness. And they weren’t alone, many have tried, but most have failed to reach a really satisfying and definitive answer. 

I suggest to you, the problem is free will. The very moment we make the decision to start the search we give our lives purpose and that purpose, the journey, becomes the very meaning we are searching for, making it impossible to rationalise as with each step the question changes shape. It’s akin to a dog playing fetch. Ask a dog what the meaning of its life is before you start playing and he may very well answer ‘the stick’, ask him during the game and he’s likely to answer ‘playing fetch’ ask him afterwards and he probably won’t even understand the question. 

It seems to me, answering the ultimate question, and discovering our purpose in life, would require us to be able to step outside of our lives and look at it as a whole, every second, every day, all at the same time, detailing all the glorious ways in which we have interacted with other people’s lives and affected them. Would the shape and the colours we see, depicted as our life, be a worthwhile answer to the ultimate question?

This of course is hypothetical, we cannot step outside our lives, and we have to live each moment as they come. And whist this isn’t the most helpful answer to the question of the meaning of life it is a sobering thought to consider the closest we can possibly come to knowing is found right here in the present. In the present, free from the past and not corrupted by the future. We simply have to ask “Am I doing everything I’m supposed to right now?” Am I doing good things? Are my actions helpful and supportive to others, or are they not? 

It is in the present we find these answers. And when it becomes too hard to answer, when life becomes too complicated to make sense of, this is when we turn to God. We turn with humility, and with Love seeking answers, to which we justly receive in turn the right questions back. 

Perhaps, it would be a wise use of our time this year to turn away from thoughts of self-justification and to discern the real worth of our lives by the way we affect others around us.

Father Stephen