A couple of years ago, when work was slow, I started doodling at my desk. Out came drawings of owls for some reason, and I ended up creating Little Owl, as a stand in for me, really, and not always the best of me. She is the part that is anxious, discontent, and worried. She is confused by life, especially the dichotomy of being an insignificant speck in the universe while also at the center of her own world. So I created a friend for her– Sleepy Lion. He too is part of me, my inner advocate, the side that knows best, but that I rarely have the presence to follow. He guides Little Owl, usually while sprawled on the ground napping, taking seriously Anne Lamott’s advice that we should all lie down more. Here, I take some liberties– please indulge me as I take Little Owl on a search for the meaning of life.
CHAPTER I: Beginnings
Little Owl’s stomach was uneasy, she was feeling unsettled.
Something was amiss, she was anxious, nervous and nettled.
What is life about? She pondered.
Is this it, or has my time been squandered?
While wondering about the point of it all,
she decided to ask her friend of her shortfall.
“Lion, what is the meaning of life do you think?”
“If this is all there is, it makes my stomach sink.”
Lion thought for a moment, taking a minute to respond:
“I think this is it; I don’t believe in a world beyond.
Life is precious! For me, this is more than enough.
But I see that you don’t agree, that you’re taking it rough.
“Only your own life– your own path– is worth living.
We only get one chance, don’t be full of misgiving.
You need to find your own thoughts on the meaning of life.
Otherwise it will only cause you and your tummy more strife.”
Little Owl thought for a while before she finally declared,
“I will go figure it out!” she exclaimed, and off she fared.
Lion bid her farewell–“Goodbye! You must go alone.
I’ll look forward to your return, you will be much grown.”
So Little Owl, alone and excited, set out
To find for herself just what life is about.
CHAPTER II: Religion
As Little Owl set off on her grand search.
She decided her first stop should be a church.
In she went, awed by the beautiful building.
Inside were people praying and milling.
The pastor saw her and approached, “How do you do?”
Owl drove right in, “What is the meaning of life to you?”
The pastor smiled, “For me it is simple and clear,
To do God’s work, far and near.
To help my community in his name,
And inspire good will all the same.”
Owl thanked him graciously and left the church.
She wasn’t sure about God, so on with her search.
CHAPTER III: Service
Though Owl didn’t believe in god, given her druthers,
She liked the pastor’s thought of helping others.
So as she walked away from the church and steeple,
Owl sought out opportunities to help other people.
She found a group that was building a grammar school
In a needy community, which she thought was cool.
Owl spent weeks hammering nail after nail,
She worked hard and steadily, without fail.
At first she was overjoyed and having fun.
But as she continued, she felt tired and overrun.
Though the work was worthwhile and her heart did soar,
Owl was exhausted from only giving, more and more.
“I love helping others, but who helps me?!
This is out of balance, I have the urge to flee.”
Once every nail was nailed, and the school was finished,
Owl left to find quiet since her energy was greatly diminished.
CHAPTER IV: Nature
Seeking relaxation and rest, Owl went to parks.
She hiked and swam with fishes and larks.
She went to Yosemite, the Sierras and to the Grand Tetons,
Up mountains, through valleys, across rivers and ponds.
So much of nature was scenic, gorgeous and grand!
Owl felt connected to the world in the grass and the sand.
She marveled at sunsets, at ferns, and ladybugs.
It was beautiful and awe-inspiring, but she missed hugs.
Alone in the forest, there was pleasure to be caught,
But she was lonely, it wasn’t the deeper purpose she sought.
CHAPTER V: Therapy
After a stretch of wandering from tree to kelp,
Owl turned to a therapist for professional help.
She asked, “Is it just me, or do others feel this way?
What’s missing? Is there more to life than work and play?”
The therapist was cheerful, thoughtful, and kind,
Talking to her, Owl felt a load released from her mind.
She spoke of her childhood, thoughts personal and deep,
The therapist provided insights that Owl decided to keep.
But, on the meaning of life, Owl’s question of utmost importance,
The therapist asked more than answered, and wouldn’t give guidance.
At first Owl was frustrated, confused and irate.
“If this therapist can’t help, who can? What’s my fate?”
Then she realized that no one else could assist,
It was up to Owl to determine her own life’s main gist.
Chapter VI: Reflection
She thought for a while, what had meaning to her most of all?
She remembered how it felt being with Lion that fall.
She loved being with him and the rest of their friends,
Perhaps there was no greater purpose, meaning or ends?
She thought, “If what gives life the most meaning to me by far
Is simply to love and be loved, that’s a pretty good north star.”
It was something she could center her life around,
One that grows with time and effort, and lifts her when down.
Owl still wasn’t sure exactly what life meant,
But she could head back home, feeling more content.
Chapter VII: Returning
She wasted no time returning home again.
She was so happy to see Lion, her very best friend.
She told him all about her journey, recounting every step,
Owl described each place and location that she did schlep.
“I need balance so I learned from all of these places,
But above all, love and friends are really life’s aces.
I’m not sure there is really a deep meaning– just pleasure,
From service, nature, but especially the people I treasure.”
So Owl settled back in, exactly where she had started,
But now much more at peace than before she’d departed.
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Next week on Small Answers: a simple resolution for the new year. Happy Holidays everyone! Follow us to make sure you don’t miss out: