I’d say it’s about time for a regularly scheduled random diversion. We’ll get back to the journals next week. This week I would like to discuss the meaning of life. I spent a lot of time stagnating and trying to figure it out, punctuated by moments of throwing caution to the wind and plunging headlong into something obviously meaningless. At the time I felt like I was “opening myself up to the answer” or “putting my trust in the Universe”, but I have since learned that these things require a little more thought and a great deal more effort than letting life just happen.
The search for a proper framework was perhaps what was so time-consuming, and it was certainly necessary. I felt like I pieced together a good working model all by myself, only to present my point of view time and again and hear people respond, “So, you’re a Buddhist?” I then try to explain that just because Buddhism makes a lot of sense doesn’t make me a Buddhist. If I belong to a religion, it is Jayism. There is only room in my religion for one person, and I find it sometimes too constricting even for him (read: me). I can only subscribe to a system of belief if it is my own, and I can’t prescribe it to anyone else.
What does all this have to do with the meaning of life? Well, one of the main things that I had to realize fairly young was that my mind wanted to understand life from what might be considered a backwards fashion. It was essential for me to grasp that meaning was the ingredient that I was to add.
Waking up every morning and going to work was not something that I could do just because that’s what everyone else was doing. I knew that I needed to spring out of bed with a smile on my face (metaphorically, anyway) if I was going to keep doing anything day after day. My motivation had to come from the realm of contemplation that psychology regards as the domain of the old man. Life is supposed to go from one stage to the next, with reconciling your place in the Universe not coming until the end. That line of thinking didn’t fit for me; I though it might make more sense to decide what I wanted to do and then do it rather than launch myself into action and try to insert some meaning into it later.
Thus began what would be a moment-by-moment (or at least day-by-day) search for meaning. The broad strokes were easy, in the beginning, as most doors of possibility slammed shut the moment my imagination considered walking through them. Zeroing in on the specifics proved both more difficult and more rewarding, and that is what must be a dynamic process.
It’s that push and pull, ebb and flow, that seems to come up again and again when considering life at its underpinnings. Listening to the voice that whispers in one ear while under assault from the voice shouting in the other is difficult enough; learning to hear them both clearly at the same time can feel like walking the razor’s edge in the hardest way possible. Is this what the Universe wants? Is this what I want? Are we both sure?
The ego can’t be dismissed from the equation of happiness any more than can spirit. When spirit is personified, I see it as soul; and the soul must speak through everything. The ego is more than just personality, though, and must be given opportunity for both expression and recreation. Again the important element becomes the balance, or the wisdom in knowing when to be imbalanced in the way that best serves your destiny. (Destiny = your best interests + the Universe’s best interests ÷ time and resources).
It is important to see that there can be meaning in everything. It has to be there in a personal way, though, and whether or not something has meaning to you depends entirely upon you. Is there meaning to life? Well, it’s a matter of perspective. Whether you have refined your perceptions to the point where you can see intelligence in the patterns presented by creation or whether you have prescribed some very personal interpretation to schlepping around your meat body, the meaning is a product of your perception. It can be argued that the meaning is already there, at least in the former example… but it isn’t there for the individual doing the looking until their eyes actually take it in. It is safe to say the Universe is not distraught over some minuscule part of it wondering whether or not the equation itself has meaning. The fact that the math doesn’t fall apart from one moment to the next is answer enough to that question for many of us. For me, chasing my happiness wherever it feels like leading me is my meaning. For some, it’s forty-two. For each of us, it is what we: discover + learn ÷ do.