Life without meaning is merely existing.
When I was in my teens I began to question things. I was critical of my parents’ life; my Dad was submerged in his work; my Mum looked after us and the house, enjoyed talking and did a lot of caring for others, but I did not see a lot of meaning in their existence. I was in search of something more.
I was not too impressed with religion (my parents never went to church. My Dad did not think about it and my Mum was a spiritualist). Christianity didn’t hold a lot of meaning for me. I saw too many people paying lip-service to it. I saw it being used for power. I saw people looking to satisfy their own fear of death and a purposeless life by believing in some afterlife – heaven and paradise. It was a prop for a meaningless life.
It all seemed far too human-centric to me. Jesus the son of god? Jesus coming back? God just appearing to Moses, Jesus and Mohamed up mountains, in wildernesses or in caves with nobody there. God being some ‘being’ who was interested in us – humans on a tiny planet in a mediocre galaxy. God as a person. The idea of heaven and hell. All far too human.
To be honest it seemed a bit puerile and simplistic.
So in my teens I went on a search for meaning. I, influenced by Kerouac, went investigating Zen and Buddhism and Eastern mysticism. I followed that up with other forms of mysticism and shamanism. It was all going beautifully but then I had an experience that forced me to see that I was playing at it and it was unlikely that there was an intrinsic meaning to anything. Everything just was. It was merely the arrogance of humans that demanded that we had to be the centre of everything and be important. It was human to say there had to be a beginning end and purpose. We created gods and religions to fulfil our needs – nothing more.
After that I started looking for purpose instead of meaning.
We could create purpose. I found purpose in teaching, loving, friendship, appreciating nature, family, reading, travelling, photography, art, architecture, history, social improvement, caring for others and the environment, and above all – writing.
I still idealistically believed that we can make the world a better place and a richer experience and that striving for that gives purpose. I believe that creating something is satisfying on a deep level and that one can immerse oneself in wonder and awe at the universe, the mind, philosophy, life and the strivings of human beings.
I am happiest with animals. I am lost in sunsets or a good book. I get enjoyment out of food, thought, drama, film and talk. I am enraptured by trees, rocks, landscapes and the stars. I like excitement.
I don’t think I ever found that meaning I so confidently set off to discover in my teens – but I have certainly packed in a lot of discovery, fun, fulfilment, love, wonder and awe.
I fill my life with purpose, idealism, appreciation and love. That has to be enough.
Having a purpose gives meaning to life.