In art, drawing is essentially the act of visually translating an idea, concept or object into marks on a surface. Drawing, like most great disciplines, is an art and a science. It also serves as a great life metaphor.
However, where drawing easily lends itself to theory, definition and overt purpose — life does not.
What is life? What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? What does it mean to be alive?
Philosophy defines life as “an overall vision of or attitude toward life and the purpose of life.”
Oxford Dictionary online defines life as a distinctive condition separating plants and animals from inert objects; existence; animate beings’ lifespan; realism in art; “vitality, vigor and energy.”
These definitions fail to capture the complexity, dynamism, variety and multiplicity of life.
Life is more than attitude. It extends the limits of solitary purpose. It is not a duality or juxtaposition of “living organisms” and inert matter. Life is more than birth, death and the time between, and it transcends the corporeal world.
“Vitality, vigor and energy” come closer to properly defining life; but they incite clarifying questions, leaving the sense that a more definitive or accurate definition of life exists.
A nagging, unrequited feeling that life is more than our current understanding and experience has been with me for most of my life.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
According to current scientific thought, modern man emerged 400,000 years ago, after more than 3 million years of evolution. After all the time humanity had been on earth before Jesus, why did humans not have life, or have full life? What is humanity missing or not understanding about life?
Obviously, after reading Jesus’s mission statement with understanding — well, partial understanding — I had questions. I still have questions about this statement 40 years later. The most important for me: What is life? How can I have it in full?
For most of my life, especially the last 26 years, I’ve explored these questions and others. I’ve looked for an answer, not for doctrinal, philosophical or academic discourses, but for personal edification, spurred by a perennial urgency.
If Jesus felt having abundant life important, I want to experience just that — life, abundant.
How can a person consciously make effective corrective or adaptive measures to maintain a certain level of life when understanding its nature remains elusive? How can a quantity of life or level of life be measured, if its essence is not stated in quantifiable terms?
Ultimately, how am I going to make the right marks in life if I am ignorant of what life is — of the grander picture life illustrates?
I’m not proposing that I know or completely comprehend life enough to give it a unifying or concrete definition. That would be tantamount to saying I know and understand the Mind of God. In claiming that, I might find myself in a similar scenario as Icarus plunging unfettered to doom — victim to his own demise, a life marked in the hubris that so easily besets humankind.
What is life? At this juncture, life, as I understand it, is the manifestation of the Cosmic Divine in individualized expressions. In God, all things live, move and have their being. We are all God’s marks on the canvas of life expressing the divine nature within us.
This year, my hope for each of you is that life within you increases, so that the marks your life makes leave a drawing reflecting the beauty and character of the One who created all things: especially his grace, love, strength and compassion.