I’m presently teaching a course on the meaning of life, and today we covered Richard Taylor’s “Time and Life’s Meaning.” In that essay, Taylor argues that essential to a meaningful life is the exercise of creative potential unique to us rational creatures. Beethoven’s 9th symphony or Shakespeare’s plays, for example, break nature’s monotonous repetition of cause-and-effect by introducing something unprecedented, something novel and innovative, thereby introducing meaning in an otherwise meaningless world. Having just returned from my dear Grandma Kelly’s funeral, this passage from Taylor’s essay stuck out to me:
Lest the impression be given that the creative thought and work that I am praising is something rare, the possession of only a few, let it be noted that it exists in degrees and is, in one form or another, far from rare. What is rare is, I think, the proper appreciation of it. We tend to think of creative works as spectacular achievements, particularly in the arts, but in fact the human capacity to create something new is sometimes found in quite mundane things. Thus, for example, the establishment of a brilliant position in a game of chess is a perfect example of creativity, … . Things as common as gardening, woodworking and the like give scope to the originality of those who have the knack for them, and are probably the most constant source of life’s joys. … . My own favorite example of a creative work, and one whose value as a creation is rarely appreciated, is the raising of a beautiful family, something that is reserved for the relatively few who can, as a natural gift, do it well.
Taylor is right. And if there was anything evident from Monday’s services, it was that Grandma Kelly had that natural gift and raised a beautiful family well: 8 children, 25 grandchildren, and (of yet) 33 great-grandchildren. Just… wow. There can be no doubt that Grandma Kelly exercised her creative potential and lived a meaningful life!