to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” 
― Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:

[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?

I was in my early thirties when I began, literally, to wake up to questions about my vocation. By all appearances, things were going well, but the soul does not put much stock in appearances. Seeking a path more purposeful than accumulating wealth, holding power, winning at competition, or securing a career, I had started to understand that it is indeed possible to live a life other than one’s own. . . .

Then I ran across the old Quaker saying, “Let your life speak.” I found those words encouraging, and I thought I understood what they meant: “Let the highest truths and values guide you. Live up to those demanding standards in everything you do.” . . .

So I lined up the loftiest ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque. But always they were unreal, a distortion of my true self—as must be the case when one lives from the outside in, not the inside out. I had simply found a “noble” way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.

Today, some thirty years later, “Let your life speak” means something else to me . . . : “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen to what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” [1]


Author: charlesburchfield

I am an artist working primarily with collage.

2 thoughts on “to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly”

  1. I have a strange love for Quakers for some reason!

    To me, ““Let your life speak”, means to simply stop telling people what you want to do or how you want to feel and let your life do the talking for you and they will see it for themselves.

    I remember a time when people would come up to me and ask me why I was so angry, it took me by surprise because I didn’t think I was angry. One day I was rushed to the hospital (almost died), it changed me, at my core. As time went on I noticed something strange, people would ask me how I stayed so calm and patient all the time, again this surprised me since I didn’t feel like I was.

    A persons life is like a blow horn announcing what they are doing and how they feel all the time to everyone around them. The feedback you get from the crowd is your life speaking..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You expressed yourself so beautifully here MHO!! I wondered what it means to let your life speak and have questioned it since I’ve heard it. A blow horn that announces to one’s community whether you are safe or not in your own skin and thus for them to connect to you in a nurturing way when one is nurturing oneself. My whole life I have felt unhealthy!! I am getting well and people are starting to notice!! The noticing is throwing off the fearful old-style me!! I am motivated to love those around me wherever I am!!

    Liked by 1 person

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