A Good Answer to “Why Am I Here?”


I go back to this poem when I can’t answer the question about my life, or other peoples’ lives, or the needless suffering. or the endless obstacles to simple peace.

I go back to this poem when I start taking myself too seriously and worrying too much about success or failure or mediocrity.

I go back to this poem when I need to remember it’s simply about using everything I am and have, right now, however I can, to love.

Like Emily Dickinson did, in 1858, when she asked the same question.

4 thoughts on “A Good Answer to “Why Am I Here?”

  1. Betsy Fitzpatrick

    Thank you, Pam! I love this poem so. I had two “free associations” with your post today: the beautiful Simon & Garfunkel song, “The Dangling Conversation” (“And you read your Emily Dickinson, and I my Robert Frost…”) and also Loren Eiseley’s starfish story (we had a poster of this on the wall at my old workplace):

    “Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

    One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

    As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

    He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

    The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

    “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

    To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

    Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
    “It made a difference for that one.”
    ― Loren Eiseley

    All the best,

    Betsy Fitzpatrick

  2. Yes! I have always loved that story. And the reference to the Simon and Garfunkel song is priceless! Thanks for your friendship, Betsy! Off to a good start for the day!

  3. Thank you very much for sharing this! I don’t know if I have mentioned it before on a previous post of yours but I’m at a place where I’m trying to figure out if I am adding value to the people around me. When I read the poem, I easily counted off a few lives that I’ve impacted. To assume that those lives were “not enough” is erroneous thinking.

  4. I’m with you! John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars, also addresses this theme. It helps me so much to remember it. Thanks again Nosyjosie!

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