What is the meaning of life?
I can’t help it, I’m a Brit. When I hear that question my default is Monty Python. The very sacrilegious musical spoof by the same name. The moment the Grim reaper appears and proclaims, “I am death” and a guest responds, “Well, that’s cast a gloom over the evening…” awkward silence! Or where the cart, manned by men picking up dead people during the plague, “I’m not dead yet” “Well you will be in a minute!” He is then unceremoniously thrown in the cart. At the end of the movie a woman opens an envelope while saying, “Now here’s the meaning of life; “Be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book, and get some walking in” as the diatribe continues in typical Python langue achieving absolutely nothing!
The wonder of this thousand-dollar open-ended question is that it is different for every one of us. I can only respond from my point of reference. That is from a former Royal Marine Commando drill instructor with a year of combat duty under my belt where I have witnessed man’s inhumanity to man first hand. Where the meaning of life is wasted on young combatants. Now I am an Episcopal priest, I have found the meaning of my life! The call to preach the Kingdom and heal the sick. (Luke 9:2) I used to make grown men cry as a drill instructor. I still make grown men cry as a priest. Funny that.
I have had thirteen extremely close shaves with death. At number nine I confess that I had become rather cautious! I have been shot at directly three times, luckily I heard the buzz as the bullets went past me. I was wounded in the head; I have been blown up five times. I drowned in a scuba diving accident, one incident involving the Russians I can’t talk about, another being forgotten and left alone in a very dangerous combat situation and more recently three weeks in a coma with three months in ICU where a seasoned doctor told me “You came as close to death without dying as I have ever seen in my life.” As I suffered through the H1N1 swine flu virus. I have stared death in the face, my own and many others, in combat, in hospitals and nursing homes too many times. It is now time to live my life to the fullest.
I have no doubt that my faith has got me through all of this with four books under my belt. Come to think of it, my full answer is written in all of those books! *
Some years ago I was asked to speak to a thousand teenagers at a collage in Boston about my life and my faith. I was told they were a very difficult crowd to talk to. I called my spiritual director for help and Godly council. He heard me drag on about my fear and at one point stopped me. He said “Nigel, I have two words for you, ‘Have fun.’ I’m British… have fun? I had never thought of that. That was the moment my life changed. I had been “given permission” to have fun.
This was reinforced at a Bar Mitzvah I had gone to where the Rabi asked the kids four questions. Three were theological but the forth was a question that you will be asked when you get to heaven. The question, “Did you have fun?”
Personally, the meaning of my life is to help others, know the healing message in the Gospels and have fun while doing so.
Be well, do good works and for the sake of God, love one another.
God bless you
The Rev. Nigel Mumford+
Publications by Fr. Mumford
Hand to Hand from Combat to Healing
The Forgotten Touch
After the Trauma, the Battle Begins. Post Trauma Healing.
Dying to Live, My H1N1 story. (Early summer 2016)
What is the meaning of life?