I’m beginning a series of five meditations, each starting with a quote from a figure of a certain world faith.
I’ll start with Benedictine Catholicism, which was ever-present in my high school. The quote used I heard perhaps a hundred times in my time there.
“Always we begin again.” – Saint Benedict
Every beginning is an end. A person ceases to conduct matters one way and pursues another avenue. Life on Earth springs forth from that which has died before. It is important at these junctures- beginning and end, young and old, naive and experienced, foolish and wise- to figure out how the previous period had been a success, and also how it had been a failure. Since one begins a beginning, so to speak, with a clean slate, it is best not to sully it with the mistakes of the past. The future need not be a repeat of that which came before- but only if the reflection in the present moment is deep, honest, and the person engaging with their self truly seeks change- if they wish to have a dynamic self tied to growth, rather than a static self tied to entropy.
The process of self-reflection and reform is something that many people, of deep profound faith or total agnosticism, take seriously. It is an inherently human thing to look at your surroundings and wonder how they might be improved. Thus is born a sense of social justice and advocacy in the human mind. Like many of my thoughts about religion and ethics, I sense that it is a universal conclusion of humankind- things that are embedded in our DNA and place in the larger web of existence. People across cultures often have common social norms, nonverbal gestures, and concepts like light and dark, black and white, and good and evil. Thus I think relativism is an incomplete idea- it is true that every culture and within a single culture there are many different ways of expressing ideas- but most of the time I think it leads back to something for which all of humanity agrees.
To engage with oneself is to be a truly conscious being. We always use petty and over-simplified reasons to justify our actions. Rarely do we come to the table with our critical thinking skills and turn all that we possess on our own outlook, actions, and beliefs. Despite its rarity, I think it is a skill that benefits all people, for it is not a process of questioning or doubting one’s self; rather it is giving a thorough inspection to the mechanics of one’s own thought- much like the service center does to your car when you bring it in. Often they do a “27 point check” – I see no issue with coming up with 27 points to analyze in our own actions and see how consistent and true to our principles they are.
Every beginning is also an end. Every end is also a beginning. We should look within and prepare ourselves, because most likely after something ends, something else begins.