The World’s Search For Meaning…

by World's View

Today’s video is based on a poem written by a North American writer, Charles Bukowski called “Nirvana.” The poem tells the story of a young man riding a bus through North Carolina on the “way to somewhere.” He is “cut loose from purpose” and lives a sort of aimless wandering.

On the way, the bus makes a stop at the diner and the young man enters. He begins to notice that there is something particular there, something “magical.” On the outside, everything seems to be normal– in fact, none of the other passengers notice anything different at all. Yet, for him, it’s almost as if he has entered into a different world, a different reality in which everything was beautiful, a beauty that would always stay there.

 In the end, in spite of the spontaneous desire to stay there, the young man heeds the bus driver’s call to return and gets back on the bus. With nothing else to do, he simply pretends to sleep, listening to the sound of the tires in the snow.

Nirvana | A Charles Bukowski Poem

A Deeper Look

The question of meaning is perhaps one of the most pressing of our times. What sense does it all have? Does my life really have a purpose? Are we simply passengers riding a bus towards no certain place, taking up space for our allotted time until it’s all over? Is the world of authentic beauty and meaning simply a passing fancy, a dream perhaps?

It is important that we try to feel the gravity of the matter at hand. The drama portrayed in the video is very much the drama of many of our friends, our family members, and our colleagues… In a world without purpose there is nothing left but melancholy, indifference… colorless shadows passing along the highways that lead nowhere. All that is left to do is nothing. Sleep if you can or just listen to the wheels of time go by.

Still, the desire for meaning and purpose is engraved in every human heart and impossible to ignore absolutely. Everyone at some point in their lives has a “diner experience,” a moment when their eyes are opened to something greater, something transcendent, to which they are invited to respond.

It is something like a slight crack in the clouds through which the sun’s light illuminates reality in a new way, allowing us to perceive something that we didn’t before. Many times these moments occur at an unexpected time and an unexpected hour. It is a moment that requires a sacrifice, a break in the normal routine and rhythm of life; it requires a leap of faith

How we respond to these moments define our path of conversion.

The experience of the young man in the diner is similar to that of the young rich man who approached Christ. A ray of light emerges that offers not only a new style of life, rather a new level of living. There are certainly sacrifices to be made, and a certain sense of fear and insecurity that accompanies it; yet if we say no, if we turn down his offer and get back on the bus, we are, at the same time, willingly plunging ourselves into a life without purpose or lasting value.

Peering into the darkness of this possibility, we can then renew our awareness of the significance of Christ’s coming. For a Christian, these moments of encounter with the depths and wonder of life aren’t “magical moments,” or some type of daydreaming. They are the fruit of our contact with reality itself, reality in its deepest dimensions.  I would say, in fact, that the moments of routine, of melancholic boredom, of one-eyed visions that ignore the richness of perspectives, are rather moments when we are furthest from reality.

Ultimately, the Incarnation is the dawn and triumph of meaning, of purpose, of beauty, in our lives. The entirety of his life reveals to all of us that all that we do for good and beauty has meaning and will lead us to eternity. Christ became like us in all things but sin; every aspect of human life has been redeemed and its true meaning and purpose revealed through Christ’s loving sacrifice for mankind and obedience to his Father’s will.

  Apostolic Elements:

–       The young man’s experience, attitude, and final decision mirror that of countless men and women, especially the youth. It’s vital that their drama be recognized and understood. Helping people to understand the coherent and final consequences of their decision and approach to reality can serve as an important step towards opening up to the faith.

–       In the video, something is awoken inside the young man, yet even with a sense of purpose, sadness, a type of grey melancholy, follows. Without the light of Faith, without at least some contact and adherence to transcendence, all of the colors of meaning are drained and reduced to an all-invading grey. In the end, every hope, every breath of meaning and beauty finds their foundation in Christ’s resurrection, in our resurrection. Without it, even the greatest marvels of this world and in our lives will be reduced to simply one more “tic” on the eternal clock.

–       The video could serve as both an interesting analytical tool of current day thinking and experience, as well as a stepping stone to contrast this with the Christian vision of hope, a hope based on the reality of meaning and goodness in the here and now, which in turn points and guides us towards the ultimate realization in Christ’s second coming.

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