April 5, 2019


"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.".....

--William Shakespeare

Seeking For the Meaning of Life

Are you the one who searches endlessly and looks for external answers or the one who looks within? Do you struggle with a sense of meaninglessness?

This is how Sylvia Plath worded her experience on this quest:

“There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there, beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it. It is the same tantalizing sensation when you almost remember a name, but don't quite reach it. I can feel it when I think of human beings, of the hints of evolution suggested by the removal of wisdom teeth, the narrowing of the jaw no longer needed to chew such roughage as it was accustomed to; the gradual disappearance of hair from the human body; the adjustment of the human eye to the fine print, the swift, colored motion of the twentieth century. The feeling comes, vague and nebulous, when I consider the prolonged adolesence of our species; the rites of birth, marriage and death; all the primitive, barbaric ceremonies streamlined to modern times. Almost, I think, the unreasoning, bestial purity was best. Oh, something is there, waiting for me. Perhaps someday the revelation will burst in upon me and I will see the other side of this monumental grotesque joke. And then I'll laugh. And then I'll know what life is.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

You want to experience a sense of purpose, the sense of time standing still, the peace of knowing you are on your path. Perhaps you have given up entirely in your mind, but if you find that you are curious still, perhaps you should read on.
You are never alone in the never-ending search for the way to make sense of life. All the ups and downs, the roller coaster ride that always seems to land us back to this familiar quest, at times when we lose hope or a clear sense of direction. 

Ways to Interpret Life

There are those who believe in a "higher power", who serves as a guiding light through life's dark maze.  There are those who take an existential nihilist point of view, with a belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value with respect to the universe. Each individual, the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose or any universal meaning. That is a bummer...perhaps. I would not be surprised however, if most people in our modern world would take this point of view.

Free Will

The good news as I see it, is that either way, we have free will. Even God, for those who possess the faith, presumes this and would presumably expect for us to act accordingly. 

Instead of waiting for signs from the universe or some other external force, it is beneficial to put the effort forth to envision our place in this life, taking on some of the burden and responsibility as to shaping our path as our understanding of ourselves, our values and the world around us unfolds into our own consciousness. We cannot afford to ignore the laws of the universe, the knowledge passed on by those that pondered questions before us and gathered them into the many knowledge areas we now call science, philosophy, mathematics, and ethics.  These truths can serve as milestones and road-signs along the highway of life as we learn to navigate traffic, terrain and road construction. We can take charge of shaping our lives, to the best of our ability, molding it into something of value to us and value to others.  

I often approached my life quest exclusively from an academic point of view, assuming that the correct answer is already discovered and a method and process to achieve it should to be followed. The correct answer, being the correct life that fits me.

A "meaningful" life, however, is discovered as the means and not an end. It is not a known destination. It is a creative process. Instead of asking how to achieve a sense of purpose or meaning within life, perhaps we can begin by asking the following:

What, in the human experience could be the cause of sensing meaninglessness?

What to Consider as Meaningful?

The sense of disconnect and meaninglessness is the call to take a deeper look at what matters to you the most. The people we care about, the ideas and events that move us to action and the energy and effort we are able to channel into them, becomes our guide to where and how we need to be and a way to live. Those activities where energy feels abundant and time matters not, become the central focus. 

Can you think of one such activity in your current life? Can you reflect on the meaning behind such activity?

Is it a sense of contribution to the people you love? Is it a sense of contribution to an idea or value you deeply connect with? Is it something that allows you to grow or connect with other people? Is it a medium of self expression?

“The restlessness and the longing, like the longing that is in the whistle of a faraway train. Except that the longing isn't really in the whistle—it is in you.”

― Meindert DeJong, The Little Cow and the Turtle

Identifying That, Which We Value

As we deliberate on each individual experience, we find meaning in the mindset hidden behind our actions.

Work diligently to incorporate more of that mindset into the daily goings and doings of your life. Rearrange your "to-do" lists to allow yourself time and space to express those values and bring about the circumstances where your energy can flow freely and easily. Remind yourself that this does not mean that you will not experience some sort of struggle, restlessness and conflict.

Wish to read more about mindset or as some people call it, virtues?

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

 Expect to move towards those moments where one's mind does not wander and time as perceived, is less important as it passes because one is "in the flow" of the experience.

“To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Create a "Habit" or call it a Ritual

When we experience such "flow", it can be beneficial to take a moment to recognize it, during and after the experience. We could  "schedule" the activity and accept it as a practice or ritual. 

Call it whatever seems most natural to you, with the exception of the following: "schedule" or "chore".  Call it anything that will not make it sound like a requirement, which would deter from the natural preference for the activity. 

“...It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Create your Life - Choose the Meaning as Artists use Colors on a Canvas!

The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves.

--Vincent Van Gogh

Our lives begin as blank canvases. A child looks at the blank canvas and starts throwing colors on it. Each shape, image manifested from the beautiful imagination of the internal as they draw from the external reality of the world around them.

They go to school and they learn that there are external expectations, and soon external demands get center focus. Often the external world demands us to put curiosity, imagination and play aside, for the tangible goals of societal demands. Sometimes these demands will foster complacency and indifference.

If enough time passes between reflection on one's life, there may be a sense of disconnectedness. It is as if we no longer recognize the shapes and colors we made on our canvas.  Justifiably so, because some of those shapes were manifested through our parents, teachers, bosses or they simply happened a while back, when we were so different from the person we know ourselves to be today.

Complacency is the root of meaninglessness

Perhaps we might be wishing the canvas was a whiteboard, so we could begin again as a childen. But for some of us, the idea of starting with a blank canvas induces a sense of dread enough, to want to swim back to the nice, lukewarm waters of complacency.

In order for your life to have meaning, its beneficial to sort through your values, move toward those actions mirroring your own principles, even if it is against the current norm.  Do not worry about "what they will say".

Imagine all that would never have been accomplished, had individuals not had courage and strength enough to at least question the status quo and, at best, take action to move towards change. Your life is not a project that you can manage and measure monetarily or quantitatively.

One can reflect upon a perceived "good" life but one needs to experience it, in order to know that it is good.

 Do not let complacency get in the way of creating your masterpiece!

Your life has too many dimensions, even in the tangible world including that vast expansion of "space", inside your mind, heart and to those who believe in it..the soul. 

What other societal or personal causes do you perceive as a potential cause for the sense of meaninglessness?

What activities do you find fulfilling, where your energy flows and time stands still? What are your reasons for doint them?

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