It's March Madness Wednesday and we're going deep today. Deep into the meaning of life and death, and what lies beyond. Join us as John Clark takes us on a journey as he and others search for the purpose and meaning of life. Don't forget to reply to be entered into the giveaway.
About Destination Unknown...
Do you know your life's purpose? Are you looking for more meaning in your life? Are you tired of just getting through each day instead of feeling a sense of purpose and direction? Sometimes the answer to a question is best explored in reverse. In order to find more purpose in life, perhaps we need to go to the end -- death -- and work backwards from there. Is it possible that contemplating death can lead to more meaning in life?
What happens to use after we die? Do we see our loved ones who have passed? Do we enter a white tunnel of life? Do we go straight to Heaven or Hell? Or is there simply blackness? Since the dawn of time, human beings have been asking these very questions. The subjects of life, death and purpose are arguably the most important we will every encounter.
John Clark has tackled the weighty subject of life after death in his newest book, Destination Unknown. Through interviews with people all over the globe -- Buddhists, atheists, Christians; men and women; young and old; school teachers, IT professionals, and military personnel -- he has compiled a tapestry of views on death that are as diverse as the people themselves. Some have had near death experiences. But no matter what the beliefs, there is a sense that contemplating the great unknown -- what happens when we die -- creates more meaning to the days we have left on this earth.
Jean Francois Fejoz
“I'm afraid of being afraid of the great departure. I'll have to be brave. It's hard to go to a totally unknown place.”
Jean Francois Fejoz thinks more and more about death as time goes on. The 65-year-old Frenchman was raised as a Catholic and still retains some of those early beliefs and teachings, but he also eschews a lot of the formal doctrines of organized religions.
“I do believe in God, and I believe in life after death,” he says. “At home when I was a kid, we had the evening prayer before we went to bed, all together. I received the education of a standard Catholic boy, going to a Catholic school until the age of eighteen. My belief of life after death might come from that education, and I'm glad of it–it gives hope.
“A life that totally ends after death seems useless and nonsense. My mind cannot imagine a world with living beings who are on Earth just to live and die and that's all. There is no proof, or very little proof, that there are things that happen to the souls once the beings are dead, but in spite of that, there must be something.
“Being christened, God is automatically to me someone who looks like a mix of Jesus and the Holy Father. But when I spend more time on thinking about it, I realize that probably God is someone very different, a Spirit which we won't know unless we're dead. I think that God is the Spirit of which I am a very tiny part. I see the creation and the world, which is the result of it. It is often chaotic and seems nonsense, but not all the time.
“Religions are far from my beliefs now. Religious is when you go to church, pray, and have rituals with others. Religions suppose that some people (like priests) know more than me, although it is very obvious that they are as ignorant (on what it's all about and what happens after death) as me. Their organizations even sometimes lead to violence, wars, etc. So don't consider me as religious.
“I think that when I realized that the priests (teachers or not) could be real bastards, and that the Church was an oppression tool, I realized I should look elsewhere, look at life as it is. I read Voltaire and Rousseau a lot, and I liked their freedom of thought.
“Spiritual is someone who has a deep interest in what is above our will, and non-material purposes. He should meditate regularly and have a behavior in which you see improvements every day. That's not me, either. Let's put that I would like to be spiritual. Someday, maybe, who knows?”
Born in 1949 in Chambery, Savoie, in southeastern France, Fejoz grew up in a family with six brothers and one sister. He is married and lives near Vincennes, just east of Paris. He is the father of three children, holds a political science degree, and has worked for the past 14 years as a bilingual guide for museums and tours.
In October 2005, Fejoz learned about the famed pilgrimage across northern Spain, the Camino de Santiago, and decided the historic journey undertaken by millions over the past 1,200 years was something he very much wanted to do. One month earlier, his mother had died, and two months after that, his father passed away.
Instead of traveling to Spain to make his pilgrimage, Fejoz decided to begin across the Pyrenees Mountains in France. He took off from Vezelay, Burgundy in May 2006 and walked through the countryside for nine days. In fall 2007, he picked up where he left off and walked for 21 days. He added another 21 days’ walking in spring 2008, and in summer 2009 completed the pilgrimage by walking another three weeks and arriving at Finisterrae, a small village on the Atlantic Ocean once known as the end of the world.
“In the first years, I did not know what to answer myself on why I walked,” Fejoz said of the grueling effort to walk hundreds of miles from the middle of France, across northern Spain, to the Atlantic. “I just wanted to (and that was a good reason enough). Today, apart from the movie that did provide the start, and the unconscious coincidence with my parents' death, I'm sure that my decision came from two primary motivations.
“First, the absurdity of the world that surrounds us, socially and politically (make money and that's all, have power and that's all–in 2006, the president of France was a disastrous and obnoxious person) and the need for me to get out of it, to get away from it. And, also, my own family life was not what I had dreamt of–my two daughters (I also have an elder son) were living the peak of their adolescence, shall I say.
“When I took the decision to try the Camino, I was not aware of the possible connection with my parents’ death. The decision was made after having seen the movie (Saint Jacques la Mecque, a French film by Coline Serreau). It's mainly in 2009 that I dedicated my walk to meditation on death.”
Among the lessons he learned successfully completing the Camino de Santiago was finding an inner strength—both physical and mental—he did not know existed. It was an emotional experience, and one that left a lasting impression.
“The Camino taught me that I was able to do something on a long distance (beforehand, I thought my will was weak). I found that I could make efforts with a result, and my body with two legs only can lead me to the other side of the continent. I realized that, with time, you can achieve real great things. In a nutshell, the Camino is excellent for your ego (mine, at least!).
“I discovered a whole new aspect of life: a passion, a center of interest, with connections in all fields. History, legends, geography, literature, films, associations, religion, and above all, close relationships with the other pilgrims–the future, the present, and the past ones. There are many traces of that pilgrimage in France and in Spain! The Camino is one of the founding elements for Europe. Since my second departure, I've been working to someday get the Way of Saint James waymarked on the ground in the streets of Paris. I write a blog about it; I meet people for it. I made it to get the Pilgrim's Bench and Tree in the north of Paris, and I am now working on the project of an albergue (Camino hostel) for pilgrims in the Paris area.”
With plans underway to walk the Camino once again after he retires, Fejoz says he remains unsure about such things as the meaning of life, the purpose for our existence, and why we are here. Since there is no way of knowing what comes next, it is important to make the most of the life we have now, he says.
“We don't know the purpose; our mind is not powerful enough. There must be one, and I suppose we'll know when we die. Knowing that, we have to make our life meaningful. Violence and aggressivity [sic] doesn't lead to good results. We should do our best to be kind to all–make life better for the others and ourselves–but it is very difficult.
“I don't believe in Heaven and Hell the way they are commonly described. Heaven and Hell are inventions by the humans. Heaven and Hell happen here on earth: short moments of happiness, quick or long times of despair, suffering, misunderstanding, awkwardness, pain, etc. I believe that after death, there is a kind of peaceful atmosphere. And when we're there, we won't even care about Heaven and Hell.
“I sometimes pray. I take it as a good kind of meditation exercise or when I need to overtake a difficult time or when I feel I'm in a bad state of mind. It raises my soul. I rediscovered the ‘Notre Père (Our Father),’ and I realized that the words are very simple, very basic, and could be said by anybody who believes in a superior ‘Being.’
“Yes, I'm afraid of being afraid by the great departure. I’m afraid I might suffer a lot before I die. I’m sixty-five, so I think of it more and more. It’s hard to go to a totally unknown place. I’ll have to be brave. I don't know, but I believe that our spirit gets mixed with a kind of general Spirit. I think and I hope that then I'll understand what all that (life and death, happiness and suffering, fight and rest, love and hate) is about.”
John Henry Clark lives in a one-stoplight central Texas town with three females: a half-blind and highly neurotic mini-dachshund; a beautiful and bulimic calico cat; and his wife, the wonderful woman who takes care of it all. A graduate of the University of Houston, Clark is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer, author, photographer, musician, artist, and avid golfer who has eight published non-fiction books, including his best-seller, Camino: Laughter and Tears Along Spain’s 500-mile Camino de Santiago, which chronicles his two backpacking journeys along the historic pilgrimage across northern Spain. A tireless seeker, researcher and questioner, John has written a number of other fascinating books dealing with the human experience, from tragedies to triumphs and more, including his first published title, Finding God: An Exploration of Spirituality in America’s Heartland. Recently, he has taken up painting, as well, and enjoys using acrylics to create abstract scenes from nature. For more on John and his books, visit: johnhenryiii.com, depressionblues.net, johnclarkbooks.com.
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