Question

If the meaning of life is not a mystery, if leading meaningful lives is within the power of all of us, then we do not need to ask the question `What’s it all about?’ in despair. We can look around us and see the many ways in which life can be meaningful. We can see the value of happiness while accepting that it is not everything, which will make it easier for us at those times when it eludes us. We can learn to appreciate the pleasure of life without becoming slaves to appetites which can never be satisfied. We can see the value of success, while not interpreting that too narrowly, so that we can appreciate the project of striving to become what we want to be as well as the more visible, public signs of success. We can see the value of seizing the day, without leading us into a desperate scramble to grasp the ungraspable moment. We can appreciate the value in helping others lead meaningful lives, too, without thinking that altruism demands everything we have. And finally, we can recognize the value of love, as perhaps the most powerful motivator to do anything at all.

The question is, not how we can be righteous, but how, though unrighteous and unworthy, we can be considered as righteous.

If the moral and physical fiber of its manhood and its womanhood is not a state concern, the question is, what is?

We are capable of finding unending meaning in a world of constant, shimmering, sometimes threatening change. The task is to keep the question of life in question, and to find in it an unending source of joy and possibility, even in the darkest of times. It is within the constant overcoming of our own limitations and habits, and of the established views of our age, that passive happiness and unreflective contentment are lost, then to be replaced by joyful activity and a glimpse of a broader, more enriching, and more responsible awareness than we have been capable of before.

Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you… Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question… Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.

What makes a marriage is the consent of the partners, their serious intention to live together in some sense, however dimly perceived, as “one flesh,” a union of their two separate existences into still a third existence, the marriage itself… The question of external status is entirely and altogether unnecessary.

Modern secularity has offered another way of dealing with religious pluralism. As religious traditions lose their importance as means of self-understanding and community identification, their differences and mutual exclusiveness diminish in importance. Alienation from any particular religious faith tends to move the question of religious particularity into the realm of indifference, as life is determined by nonreligious values and institutions. Yet secularity has been no more successful in establishing human community than has the religious vision. The competing claims of nationalism, economic imperialism, and ideological triumphalism are also demonic forms of particularity that have not been able to establish a new universality in human community.

The apportioning of blame [is] the means by which society obtains a modicum of revenge for the wrong it has suffered, expiates its own guilt for such responsibility as it may have had for the event in question, and finally seeks to prevent a repetition of the disaster.

The question put by a wise man is half the answer.

The first question to be answered by any individual or any social group, facing a hazardous situation, is whether the crisis is to be met as a challenge to strength or as an occasion for despair.

The noblest question in the world is, What Good may I do in it?

The great question which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'what does a woman want?'

There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.

At the time of writing I never think of what I have said before. My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me [at that] given moment. The result is that I have grown from truth to truth.

A soldier is a man whose business it is to kill those who never offended him, and who are the innocent martyrs of other men’s iniquities. Whatever may become of the abstract question of the justifiableness of war, it seems impossible that the soldier should not be a depraved and unnatural thing.

How does time become holy? It becomes holy when a part of it is given to others, when we share and care and listen. Time is sanctified when we use it – to forgive and ask forgiveness; to remember things too long forgotten and to forget things too long remembered; to reclaim sacred things too casually abandoned and to abandon shabby things too highly cherished; to remember that life’s most crucial question is – how are we using time?

There is not even one single thing we value when we restrict the question to ethical values. Instead, there is a plurality of different things we value, but in ethics and in life in general. In life we value pleasure, human interaction, achievement and contact with reality. In ethics we value human flourishing but also commitment and justice per se… No single set of rules seems adequate to the irreducible plurality of incommensurable things that we value.

Are you open to the full interrogation of life? Or are you close to the search because you believe what you’ve always believed without question? Have you pondered the logic of your experiences and dared to follow the direction of their limits and promptings?

The seeker after truth, however, is not a conqueror but a supplicant. Because there’s no one easier to deceive than ourselves, and no bigger credibility gap than that between our truth seeking and our truth twisting, our only path to truth (and its resultant freedom) is to be transformed by it rather than trying to conquer it… We must conform to truth –or, more accurately, become captive to it. Ultimately the question for each of us is not how thoroughly we’ve searched for the truth but how searchingly the truth has examined us.

Too much to live with, too little to live for… In our own day this question of life purpose is more urgent than ever. Three factors have converged to fuel a search for significance without precedent in human history. First, the search for the purpose of life is one of the deepest issues of our experiences as human beings. Second, the expectation that we can all live purposeful lives has been given a gigantic boost by modern society’s offer of the maximum opportunity for choice and change in all we do. Third, our fulfillment is thwarted by this stunning fact: Out of more than a score of great civilizations in human history, modern Western civilization is the very first to have a no agreed-on answer to the question of the purpose of life… Most of us in the midst of material plenty, have spiritual poverty.