Finding meaning in our lives
The awakening to the mystery of life is a revolutionary event; in it an old world is destroyed so that a new and better one may take its place, and all things are affected by the change. We ourselves have become mysterious strangers in our own eyes and tremblingly we ask ourselves who we are, whence we came, whither we are bound. Are we the being who is called by our name, whom we thought we knew so well in the past? Are we the form we see in the mirror, our body, offspring of our parents? Who, then, is it that feels and thinks within us, that wills and struggles, plans and dreams, that can oppose and control this physical body which we thought to be ourselves? We wake up to realize that we have never known ourselves, that we have lived as in a blind dream of ceaseless activity in which there was never a moment of self recollection. —J. J. Van Der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion
c. 1300, meninge, "sense, that which is intended to be expressed," also "act of remembering" (a sense now obsolete), verbal noun from mean (v.). Sense of "significance, import" is from 1680s.
Yes, that's it.
An act of remembering, or at least waking up to something more important than the comatose version that wanders around looking for something purposeful to do. And, hopefully, something more important than filling its time with work.
Truly, what does a life of meaning look like?
Doing great deeds?
Being in service to a person or community?
Or devoutly worshipping a god — and it could be, not to be too flippant, the god of materialism?
In my case, I can't say I stopped long enough to invite a more beautiful question into my heart, let alone a meaningful one, other than:
I'm deadly serious.
If meaning was to be found anywhere, it was in how hard I worked and outworked everyone else.
These days...? Well, you might be surprised to know, it's not a question that comes up much. It's not that it doesn't concern me but, and I say this with great sincerity, being alive is more meaningful than anything else.
Just being here is my meaning to my unspectacular life.
That might not sound very exciting and almost like the flotsam and jetsam that abounds these days, but if I were inclined to sit down and understand my journey, let alone why I now do what I do, it would be impossible, or at least with any precision, to identify a chooser that might otherwise awaken to something (allegedly) more meaningful.
Think about it.
You feel a sense a loss in not living the life that you say you were destined to live. It eats you up. You're nearly always miserable and, still, you keep looking. Oops, if you're not careful, there goes life — your one, and oh-so-precious life. I'm not saying that you might not be expressed to improve your life but don't forget, what's meaningful to one person can just as easily be the biggest turn off in the world to the next. It's all very subjective.
What am I trying to say?
Well, I think like so many things we're seduced to believe and believe in, meaning could just as easily be another chimaera that devours our time and stops us enjoying the present moment. Right now, all I'm doing is typing these few words, listening to music and drinking coffee. None of that sounds rational when juxtaposed to the meaning trope but then again, it sure feels meaningful to me. Am I just being incredibly selfish and not looking beyond my bailiwick? Yes. But being at peace, paying attention and listening deeply to what's arising seems as meaningful as anything else I've ever experienced.
Of course, you may have a very different perspective to what it means to live a meaningful life and if that's the case I'd love to hear from you. Not for the first time, I might be taking a complete load of nonsense 🤣.
One last thing. I'm quite sure that I'm not done with this subject. In fact, that's a gross understatement. It seems to me that nearly everyone I know is struggling with the meaning question, particularly when death is or has been on the horizon. But, really, whilst it's never too late to live the question, my answer might be as simple as saying that being you — all body, mind and soul — is the most meaningful thing that you can ever aspire to. Of course, for a lot of people, there's too much inexactitude in positing that sort of message. It's easier to offer an exemplar but, in my book, hero/heroine worship does us no good, particularly or more especially when it devoids us of looking to our direct experience of life. As hackneyed as it sounds, life truly is our best teacher on the meaning question or anything else.
Blessings ❤️, Ju.
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