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Have you ever noticed that some lessons you seem to learn over and over again, only to forget once more and be doomed to the fate of our faulty memories?

Life lessons especially take glee at hiding out in the distant recesses of our minds, only to pop out at the most inopportune moments to say "I told you so ... dumbass."

And this phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to an individual malady. In fact, it afflicts our entire species at times.

Take, for example, the question that has come to symbolize our species' alleged higher thought process: "What is the meaning of life?"

Of course, in order for it to even occur to you to ask this question, you must have all of your basic necessities well in hand and have the luxury of free time to engage in such vaunted and vainglorious pursuits of knowledge. Either that, or you live a life so afflicted with misery that you wonder why you were ever born if only to endure such abject pain.

But in either case, I think that those of us who from time to time ponder this question miss the point. Because I think the first question should probably be: "What is this life?"

Humans' quest for our meaning in life has resulted in the arrogant assumption that because we can assert mastery of all that surrounds us -- we should.

From the plants and animals, fish and fowl, to the ground on which we walk and the bowels of the Earth from which we tear minerals and oil -- we have built entire civilizations on the idea that what we can conceive we should achieve, despite the consequences to other people, to other inhabitants of the Earth and to the Earth itself (and by extension, to the stars and planets within our ever-grasping reach).

If by chance, like in the book by some long dead writer, our dogs started talking to us and asked what their meaning in life was, we'd laughingly tell them: "Why, to serve us, of course."

What we have forgotten, as a species, is that our meaning has no meaning taken out of the context of our environment. Life is. Get right with it.

Instead of crafting an existence dependent on the exploitation of others, or the planet and each of its dwindling non-human inhabitants, why not try to live as a good neighbor to our neighbors, as a good guest in our homes, as a good friend to our friends and enemies alike?

Why are our lives -- or more precisely, the lives of those deemed worthy by the stacked deck that is the game of human-made life -- more important than any others who call this planet home? Why must it be that we kill everything in our paths toward an ill-defined glory -- even each other? Why are we bent on self-destruction, decimating our home even as we live in its rubble daily? Shouldn't it be a clue that our current course is lunacy when we are experiencing the impact of our ways even as we continue them? And why do we consider it a mark of "progress" the further from a harmonious existence with our surroundings we become?

It seems that the truest lessons are the ones we have to keep learning, endlessly and for all time.

Unfortunately, time is not an infinite resource. Not for us or our planet. Let's hope our arrogant ways haven't shortened the lives of both.

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