By Michael Ruffin
I have been thinking a lot lately about the beginning of life, the end of life and the life that is lived in between the beginning and the end.
Before we are born we spend several months safe and secure in our mother’s womb; it is a small space that provides very little room to move (although all mothers can testify to how hard we try). Then, when the time has come, we squeeze through the even narrower confines of the birth canal. It takes a while but all of a sudden we emerge into the wide open spaces of the big, big world. We take our first breath, we cry our first cry, and we’re off.
For the rest of our lives we fight the temptation to try to return to the womb rather than to live fully in the world. While we can’t literally return to the womb, we do try to find a place where we can feel a sense of safety and security; we seek a place where we can stay put and stay protected from everything in the world.
Here’s the thing, though: while we know that we were safe when we were in the womb, we don’t remember being safe; we were in fact completely unaware. It may be that the only way to feel completely safe is to be utterly unaware — but what kind of life would that be?
And yet too many of us often seek a safe place where we can be as unaware as possible — or at least where we are aware only of that of which we want to be aware and remain unaware of that which would challenge or stretch us. So we settle into a particular community, into a particular group, into a particular region, into a particular mindset, into a particular worldview, or into a particular culture and never make forays into the wider world where our thinking can be challenged and our understanding enlarged.
While there is nothing wrong and much right about having a community to which we belong and where we feel at home, there is much wrong and not much right about turning our community into a fortress of solitude in which we try to close ourselves off from the wider world and from which we lob rocks at members of other communities and at ideas and ways of life that we have never encountered and thus cannot understand.
We live life best when we continue to live it in the way that we started it; at the beginning we emerged from the womb into the wide world and we should keep moving out into that wide world. The more we move into it the wider it becomes. The more places we go, the more books we read, the more areas we study, the more ideas we consider, the more people we meet, the more cultures we encounter, and the more worldviews we engage the broader our lives will become. In such a wide, wide world there is no excuse for not living a broad, broad life.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.” It should not be that way for us. We must not let it be that way for us. We must keep on going, keep on learning, keep on growing, keep on thinking, keep on changing and keep on evolving.
One of these days we’ll close our eyes and our life on Earth will come to an end. When we open our eyes again, we will have the entire universe, all of reality and all of heaven spread out before us and we will have all of eternity to explore it. What a broad, broad life will be ours to enjoy in the wide, wide heavens.
So at the beginning we emerge from the confines of the womb into the wide world and at the end we emerge from the confines of physical life into the vast heavens.
What sense does it make, then, for us to spend our time on Earth trying to stay in some confined place in the misplaced effort to find a kind of security that we are not meant to have and that drains our lives of wonder and adventure? How much better our lives are if we live them for all they’re worth with the constant goal of living a broad, broad life in this wide, wide world.