The Search for Meaning

The past few weeks have been a really insightful period for me. Since my Adrenal Fatigue diagnosis, I've really been questioning why I've been pushing myself so hard, what I'm ultimately trying to achieve, what I'm stressing about - you know, the standard pop-philosophy "what does it all mean" stuff you do in your twenties. Through a series of surprising conversations with my naturopath, my kinesiologist and my colleague and friend Dave, I've been having insight after insight, some of which has crystallised for me today when I came across this posted on someone's Facebook wall. (Ah, Facebook. Channel of such great insights.)

Perhaps I'm a bit behind the curve here, but I realised today that what this image tells us is entirely right. Because we exist without any inherent sense of meaning or purpose, we spend our entire lives trying to realise or create one. It makes me so sad that in our modern world, purpose is so often misconstrued as making as much money as possible, or feeling as though you can save the world, or receiving the adoration and adulation of thousands that don't really know you. Fame, comfort, money and power are all just substitutes for a lack of meaning.

The very clever Tullia Jack had posted on her blog a while back these very wise words:

‘Them’ is an illusion. There is only ‘Us’. The more strangers you meet, the more you know this to be true.

What I realised upon reading this, is that in the absence of any inherent purpose or meaning in life, our purpose is to make this lack of purpose easier for every other being that exists alongside us - to help them be ok with the fact that their life doesn't have a guiding purpose, and that it never will. We're all in this purposeless life together, and with that fact comes huge amounts of anxiety and uncertainty. But if we know that each and every single person in the world is similarly struggling to come to terms with this it becomes far easier to understand ourselves and be at ease with life, and to know how to relate to others.

For the past little while, this search for meaning has been the source of a great deal of unease for me. But all of a sudden, rather than this knowledge depressing and unsettling me, it gives me more freedom to figure out what I should be doing with my life - to create a sense of meaning in the everyday. And so far I've worked out:

  • Be kind to everyone - like you, every single person is struggling to realise that there is no greater meaning to our being here, and trying to create their own purpose.
  • We're all in this together. If we don't get that winning at the expense of others is actually losing, then we're not a very enlightened species at all, and none of us will ever be truly happy.
  • Take pleasure in the happiness of other people. Try to make things easier for every person you come into contact with, and every person you don't ever see with your own eyes.
  • Nothing is more important than the everyday. Each moment is as important as the next, so be happy as much as you can, especially if your being happy is making others happy.

(An aside: Becoming Minimalist is the credit for the image, and I really recommend it as a great blog for exploring some of these themes, far beyond "minimalism" as it relates to physical possessions and into our place in the world, our collective purpose and the meaning of life.)