Life as we know it is Busy. Everyone I know is working hard, busy with their jobs and their families, paying their bills, getting food cooked and on the table, doing the million little things it takes to (pleasantly) survive our day. And trying to squeeze in moments for fun, joy, relaxing. But there are other moments, rare moments, when another kind of thought creeps in. Not a thought even…a feeling. A sense that comes without words. A sense that our life is supposed to be more than this.
Maybe this thought comes upon us during the holidays, when we step back from the routine of work and experience a glimpse into how our life ‘might be’. Or maybe it comes slowly upon us as we walk in the quiet of the woods, or along the shore of the sea. Or maybe it comes unbidden, in a random moment driving home from work or doing another load of laundry. It whispers in our ear, What is the Point? What is the Point of your Life?
Surely Life should be about something more than simply getting through each day, surviving, working, buying shiny new things that grow dull in time.
This other kind of thought doesn’t come upon us often. In fact, we try really really hard to drown it into the background noise of our busy lives. Because it makes us sad, uncomfortable. It makes us feel like we are drowning. Because we know we don’t know the answer. We don’t know what the Point is. We don’t feel the bigger meaning of our life. We feel the stress of work, of papers that need to get filled in by a certain date, of all the expectations other people in our lives have of us. We are afraid to ask ourselves what will survive when we get old. We don’t contemplate how we might feel about our lives when we are about to die.
What is the Point? Shouldn’t life be about more than this?
For me, this other kind of question has been a shadow at my back. Unshakeable. Instead of disappearing when I ignore them, the questions just multiply. What is the purpose of my life? Is there a ‘meaning’ out there? Is there a Point to it all? Can I find a way to be okay with the knowledge that one day, I am going to die? If everything is going to change in time, where can I find lasting happiness?
I know that I am far from alone in wondering/worrying/trying to avoid these thoughts. Underneath our skin and down deep in our hearts, we all wonder these things–and try not to think about them. But finally, instead of trying to ignore these thoughts or push them away, I turned around at began to follow them. Instead of treating them as the enemy, as something that made me worry and disrupted my happiness, I tried treating them like a friend instead. Like a friend trying to tell me something important.
The Boatman is a story I wrote about what happens when a girl called Isla turns around and begins to follow those questions about the meaning of her life. It is the result of my own search for answers within various traditions including yoga and Tibetan Buddhism–traditions which have also searched for the answers to these questions. It is the result of the inspiration I have found in other stories–The Alchemist, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Zorba the Greek, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Waldon and many more stories we love because they dared to ask the important questions and search for the answers. And it is the result of my own efforts to understand my life.
If I’m honest, I wrote The Boatman for myself. Writing is the way I think. Telling stories–which to me means trying to understand how these life questions play out in people’s lives–is the way I understand things.
But as time went on, it became just as important to tell this story for others as well. For YOU, whoever you are… To share my own thoughts on life and be another voice that, in the madness of our Busy Busy World, says–it’s okay to think about the meaning of your life. It’s okay to ask–What is the Point? It’s okay to feel afraid that one day you are going to die–I am afraid of that too. You aren’t alone.
And there is a possibility that there are actual answers to these questions. Not answers in the way we think of answers. Not answers I could write down as answers to a ‘test’. But there is an Understanding about life we can work our way into. And that greater Understanding, which I guess we could call Wisdom, is the way to be truly happy.
So really, I wrote this book as a way to join together with everyone who also feels these Bigger Questions nagging at the edges of their mind or following at their back. I want to travel together with everyone else who also dares to turn around and follow these other kind of questions.
I really hope you’ll join me, because this journey is a massive leap of faith, and it only feels possible to travel it with friends…