I went to go visit Baba (my grandmother) yesterday at her new home at the Westport Health Facility or whatever the exact name of it is. When I got there she was sitting in her chair next to her bed reading a book. It seemed like she had a pretty good day all things considered yesterday. While she didn't remember my name right off the bat, she did remember her relationship to me and of course, my son. I still think its a little funny that she remembers my son's name before she will remember mine despite the fact that he has only been around for a little over a year. It is what it is though. She looked healthier than she did when I visited last and her memory even seemed a little bit better if only because the story she got stuck on wasn't quite as repetitive as it was before. There was still the circling back to the basics of the story, but there were more additional details added and she seemed more in tune to what had happened. The story she was telling yesterday was about the sugar factory that was built near her family's house in the Ukraine. She recounted how amazing it was to watch the factory being built and then to work at the factory and see all the high tech, modern machines that were in place to make the sugar. She also told of how after the factory was built, most of the sugar being produced was being sent to Germany, mostly to make explosives for use in WWII. Finally, she recounted the hardship that settled in when the war started, how everything got put on hold, everything shut down, and life was essentially in limbo. Essentially, the war destroyed and changed everything. But it is not her story that I want to talk about today even though I just did a little. While I was visiting, I was also thinking about life and our materialistic tendencies that we have in this country. As my cousin wrote on my Facebook post when I last wrote about Baba, "So much is brought to question in the deepest ways." I couldn't agree more, provided that one is willing to face those questions and dig deep enough to find the answers. I don't know if I found any answers yet, but there are plenty of questions.
The question that came to mind yesterday was why we as a people spend so much time and effort accumulating "stuff" when in the end, all we are left with is a bed, chair, and night table. That bed, chair, and night table we are left with aren't even ours in the end, they belong to others. We start off in a similar fashion, born into the world with nothing and starting with a crib, rocking chair, and night table, none of them ours to start with either. So why then do we spend the majority of our life working to buy stuff when all the stuff we buy won't mean squat in the end. Everything we can buy is only temporary and in the end means nothing. We could buy 50 cars, have the nicest watch, enormous house, with acres upon acres of carefully manicured lawns and gardens and in the end, we would still most likely end up in a bed, with a chair, and a night table next to us, wondering what happened. Life happens. We start with nothing and end with nothing, so what is the in between really about? Why do we waste our time and effort on stuff that isn't important? Ultimately, what is important? To me, there is nothing more important than those around you. Regardless of what kind of "stuff" you fill your life with, the only thing that matters is the people you deal with on a daily basis. As I sat yesterday with Baba, I couldn't care less about any of her possessions she used to have. In fact, none of that even came up in conversation. She never mentions the "stuff" that she was able to buy throughout her life, rather, she mentions how she has nothing left. Yet, despite her soft lament about having "nothing", she also realizes that she doesn't need anything at this stage. She knows her life is coming to a close, her last chapter currently being written, and I think she is OK with that. There is no longing for that TV she used to have or the car she used to drive, the only thing she talks about her is her memories about family and her life. Seeing her life reduced to half a room with only a few possessions makes me think about what the focus of our lives "should" be. I think that in general, most people don't get it, and even if they say they do, they are so drawn into our materialistic world that they can't extract themselves from it.
To me, the ultimate purpose that we are here to fulfill is to have the biggest positive impact on others that we can. The more we focus on impacting others in a positive way, the more we contribute to the well being of others. By contributing to the well being of others, we perpetuate goodness on this earth and what can be more long lasting than that? We have a choice, either float through this life focusing on material things or live our life focusing on others and how best to interact with them. The more we focus on the relationships in our lives instead of the material things we seek to possess, the more meaningful and full our life will seem. If we simply fill our life with material things, it can often times feel quite empty leading us to fill it more and more with useless contraptions and trinkets. However, the relationships we have and foster can fill our lives with purpose and meaning. There is nothing more we need than to focus on others in our life, our relationships, and our family. When everything else is gone, our family will still be there. Just as Baba has nothing left material wise, she still has her family that fills up her last chapter with meaning. She can still impact those around her in a positive way (if she chooses to on any particular day) and have her life filled with meaning and purpose. There is nothing she needs at this point material wise that will make any difference and she knows it. If only we could all realize that everything we possess will be gone someday and not be worth a damn, perhaps we would all be better off. Why get attached to "stuff" when it is never really ours. Everything we own will either break down and be destroyed or get passed on to others ad infinitum. I only hope that I can keep my focus on what is important, my family and friends, and not get caught up in the material world. I think I am doing a pretty good job at it compared to where I used to be, however there is always room for improvement. I recognize that everything I "own" doesn't matter. If it gets destroyed, it gets destroyed. Nothing, however, can destroy the bond I have with my family and friends unless I let it. While my questioning still persists, the answers coming slowly, it is well worth it in the end. If we only take time to consider the questions presented to us, we can improve our lives exponentially. The issue comes with questioning our motives and the willingness we have to do that. Many don't want to inspect their own lives, just other's. I, however, always question my life and seek for ways to improve. I don't know. As Baba still says, "Life is not so simple."