Stream of consciousness | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Jun 23, 2016

Raison d’etre. Carpe diem. Live life to its fullest. No regrets. Imagine.

Even before first hearing the finest, simplest use of the phrase “raison d’etre” (as quoted in the movie, Raising Arizona, “That's your whole [G-d] raison d'etre, ain't it?”), I have struggled to define my reason for being … the predictable existential question of “Why am I here?” Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I have struggled to not want so much to define it.

I know how I got here (thanks to a generally good education system and a family of story tellers). I am fortunate here is not characterized by famine or disease or war and here has many kind people in it. We are all here just like billions and billions of humans before us.

But the why? There is something inherently solitary about searching for a raison d’etre. I am one person, and thus, my reason for being is singular. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put his raison d’etre simply, “Because it is my desire. Is that not enough?"

With all of the time spent thinking about it, it feels as if I should be able to create a pretty good reason. I read that ’80s spiritual teacher, Frederick Lenz, said humans need social and economic stability to be able to “practice of self-discovery and eventually reveal one's true nature.”

That seems a little, well, elitist. Activist and scholar Angela Davis defined her reason more outward looking, “If it is not relevant to human problems, if it does not tell us how we can go about eradicating some of the misery in this world, then it is not worth the name.” I certainly agree with that, but can I live up to it?

Often, we find a reason (helping others, discovering the unknown, creating something), or it finds us (keeping someone alive, working to feed a family, battling a demon). The inherent unfairness to external conditions that can influence an individual raison d'etre has stymied me, as well as finding one that is worthy. When I get wrapped up around knowledge I will never know, things I cannot change, and luck I can never quantify, Conan Doyle sounds quite sensible.

The moments when I forget the questions and doubts, however, always seem to come when something outside of myself overpowers. When I open my eyes there is one thing that comes to me effortlessly, but deserves the most effort, it loosens the tightness in my chest when I worry, emboldens me as it grows: great love. From the first day we realized love could be truly great, my husband and I believed we could prevent anything from diluting it, and more importantly, that we could nurture it to become more concentrated. Even if sorrows or injustices or time passing hurt us individually, they only magnify who and what we are together. Because of great love, we are also better alone.

We believe our love is king, and we know we are two individuals contributing to many wholes. Is it too simple to quote another great movie, The Princess Bride, and simply say, “Love, true love is the greatest thing in the world” and perhaps, a raison d’etre.


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