There isn't a much better word for one's journey through life than the word "odyssey." This word is taken from an epic poem attributed to Homer, recounting the travels of Odysseus. The definition of odyssey is: "A long wandering usually marked by many changes of fortune." How very appropriate.
Few of us look upon our life as a journey, a flowing of movement and action through time. Rather, we see ourselves in static situations, living for lengthy periods in one residence, going to the same job, taking care of the children. A friend may ask, "What's new? What's happening?" and we reply, "Nothing. You know - the same old thing." You see, we have lost sight of the journey. We no longer see the path.
How to recognize our path through the foliage and undergrowth of our daily lives? It's like a woodsman looking for signs that mark the trail. A slash in the bark of a tree, a small pile of stones indicating a path, an arrow scratched into a rock to show direction.
What comparable signs do we find in our own lives? Some special word from a friend, a passage with significance discovered in a book, a phrase from a sermon heard in our place of worship.
And what purpose these seemingly random markings? For one thing, they serve as reminders of the existence of our spiritual selves, our souls. We can be ever so busy in our lives, consider ourselves "successful," chose among the finer things in life for our pleasures, but when we reach the end of our earthly span, what is left to us? How true that old chestnut, "You can't take it with you." But even that adage indicates the underlying nature of things - that you are indeed going somewhere (though you may have doubts about that in the here and now). Let us assume for the moment that there is a place or state for you to enter after death. You know that you won't be taking along your worldly goods.
(Whatever does one do without TV??) You know that your physical body will remain behind. So what does that leave us but for that mysterious quantity that we refer to as a "soul"? That part of us that is so easy to ignore amidst the busyness of our lives.
One important aspect of the soul is that, as something "living," it is capable of growth, of further development. May I be so forward as to interject the hypothesis that the further growth and development of our souls is an important purpose, perhaps the most important purpose, of our earthly existence?
No, I'm not suggesting that you spend hours on your knees in a church! It's more a matter of living your life with one ear partially tuned to the rhythyms of your soul. Faced with choices? Look inward for the proper answer. An opportunity arises for a creative learning experience? Take it. Creative activity feeds the soul. Using and developing our skills, whatever they may be, nourishes our spirits.
Why bother? Simple answer, really. When you pass through the portal called death, the only thing that goes with you, which is the thing that you are at the most fundamental level, is your soul. And if, along life's journey, you have occasionally fed (through creative activities), cleansed (with meditation or prayer), or otherwise cared for it, one might envision for you a bright, shiny, polished apple of a soul. A soul ignored and left to carry the debris of thoughtless actions and abuses might be seen as dark and dusty, mossy, cobwebby, maybe even a few barnacles thrown in for good measure. A choice, you see. Truly, each individual's ultimate choice.
(More to follow.)