So I was debating whether to write an article on ‘the meaning of life’ or perhaps one on ‘how to get a smaller ass and a six-pack’.
Which would you prefer?
You’re all so shallow.
Cut that out.
That’s why you need to read this one!
Well, the good news is that after reading this post, you’ll never have to read any self-help literature ever again; you’ll know it all.
That’s gotta be re-assuring and somewhat comforting.
Think of all the time you’ll save from here on.
Thank me later.
Yes, I’m being facetious and silly.
So, recently one of my friends challenged me to write a post on the ‘Meaning of Life’.
Not being particularly bright or one to side-step a challenge, I thought I’d give it a crack (Aussie for ‘try’), although it’s taken me a while to get to this point.
He asserted that I had been “skimming the surface with all that other superficial subject matter and that perhaps I should dive in the deep end with something really big”.
Well here I am, about to get all wet; no flippers, no mask and no diving experience.
And dive I will.
Surely I’m the natural choice to explore a subject such as this.
Okay, you’re right… there are probably plenty of people better qualified (or are there?) but I’m gonna do it anyway.
So in an age when space travel is possible, phones are now mobile computers and Michael Jackson can turn himself into some weird-ass version of Elizabeth Taylor, surely I can figure out the meaning of life.
So, here’s my first significant question:
Who is most ‘qualified’ to answer the question of the ages… “What is the meaning of life?”
That is, if there is one person or ‘type’ of person who us mere mortals might assume would have the most insight into, or understanding of, this issue, who would it be?
I conducted a straw poll (as I do) and the answers I got were:
* Spiritual leaders
* Scientists (surprised me)
* Old people
* Dying people (interesting)
I got a few smart-ass answers also.
Fortunately for you, I’ve kept them off the list.
So for over a month I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic but at the same time, feeling decidedly ‘unqualified’ to discuss it, even though I knew it would make an intriguing exploration.
Interestingly, even with all I’ve learned, I still found a way to tell myself that my thoughts on this matter probably weren’t worth hearing (reading).
Funny how we (I) do that, isn’t it?
And then I answered my own question…
I don’t need to answer the big question, I merely need to explore and discuss it.
So that’s what I’m gonna do.
We know a few things:
1) The ‘meaning of life’ question is probably the greatest theological and philosophical question of all time; the most explored and discussed anyway.
2) There is no definitive (universally agreed upon) answer.
3) Is has been the subject of much debate between groups of people (academics, theologians, philosophers) since the dawn of time and probably always will be.
Hey, there’s another interesting question (and source of much debate), “when was the dawn of time?”
Six thousand years (Creation) or Sixty million (Evolution)?
And another, “what is time”?
You best sit down.
Get yerself a coffee, this could take a while.
Oh alright, we’ll tackle those issues another day.
Unlike me to digress.
Okay, back to that little chat about the meaning of life.
So what else do we know?
Well, we know that the vast majority of us ‘search for meaning’ at some stage, if not, constantly.
Perhaps not the meaning of life (strictly speaking), but meaning in our work, in our relationships, our music, our creativity, our faith, our beliefs, our achievements, our ’causes’ and our academic or ‘learned’ understanding of ‘stuff’.
And what a lot of stuff there is to explore.
So I’m gonna throw my first Harpothesis (seriously crackin’ myself up today) into the mix for you to chew on.
There is no (single) answer to the ‘meaning of life’ question because it’s meaning will vary from person to person; it’s different for different people.
I would guess that the meaning of life for a starving person living in poverty might be completely different to that of a wealthy, middle-aged business person living in corporate wherever, who’s biggest dilemma today is whether to buy the new Merc or the Beemer and whether or not they can get it in the gun-metal grey with the sun roof.
Perhaps it’s ignorant or naive to suggest that there could exist a single universally-acceptable, universally-meaningful and universally-relevant answer to this one question.
The question we should ask is not the unanswerable “what is the meaning of life?” … but rather the very-answerable, “what is the meaning of MY life?”.
Hmm, is that the beginning of enlightenment I can hear Grasshoppers?
A little ray of light piercing the cerebral fog perhaps?
Or perhaps some alternative version of you being awoken from deep within your subconscious.
There’s an interesting thought.
Surely the one thing we can determine is what our (individual) life will mean.
After all, we get to choose what we do with, and in, that life don’t we?
We get to determine our life purpose; what we will do, be and leave behind.
Sure there’s stuff we can’t control but irrespective of the situation, circumstance or environment we find ourselves in, our life-reality (meaning perhaps) will still largely be about the choices we make and the things we do.
Is it not a preposterous notion that someone else (an individual or organization) should tell you what the meaning of life is (for you)?
How would they know?
I mean (are you paying attention), how do they really… know?
Throw this question around (especially in some circles) and you will undoubtedly encounter a level of arrogance and superiority from some people (individuals and groups) who allegedly know what you and I don’t.
People who feel that they have the answer to the big question and that it is their personal responsibility to enlighten those of us who are, according to them, living in ignorance.
All for our benefit of course.
Yep, they think, they guess, they postulate, they hypothesize, they use fancy schmancy talk and occasionally they baffle us with bullshit… but do they really know?
Because the meaning of life for them, ain’t necessarily the meaning of life for me.
And if you’re silly enough to disagree with, or perhaps question them, then there’s a fair chance that you’ll be on the receiving end of some indignation and a little self-righteousness.
Ugly, yucky people.
Yeh, sorry for thinking for myself.
How dare I have my own thoughts.
How dare I not conform.
Clearly, I’m a trouble maker.
To be avoided.
Note to the self-appointed enlighteners (a word) of the masses:
By all means have your own beliefs, ideas and philosophy but please don’t try and ram them down my throat.
I’m happy to discuss anything with anyone but I’m not up for having someone’s thoughts (beliefs, values, principles, philosophies) imposed on me simply because you think you’re right.
If I want to be enlightened by you, I’ll send you a memo.
Communication tip: telling me I’m ignorant ain’t a great way to connect with me… or anyone.
Stupidly, I’ll probably explore the meaning of life for myself.
Yes I’ll listen, yes I’ll read and yes I’ll ask some questions, but ultimately I’ll decide what my beliefs are rather than embrace yours.
Maybe they’ll be the same.
Even when it comes to religion (dangerous ground Craig, be careful… I can hear the noses going out of joint already) we don’t really know, we only know what we believe we know (with me?). We tell ourselves we know but if we really did know (as in we could literally and practically prove something) then we wouldn’t need faith… right?
When we can prove something (irrefutably), then there’s no need for faith, because we have knowledge.
I am not trying to be disrespectful to anyone (I have faith in things I can’t prove) but I think it is important that we don’t simply stumble through life believing what we’re told without seriously considering, evaluating and meditating on things for ourselves.
We need to do our own learning but in order for that to happen, we need to get ourselves in that learning space.
If we were all completely honest (about what we know and don’t know), we would acknowledge that often we’re simply making informed (or ill-informed) guesses.
I’m meant to be an ‘expert’ with many years of experience but even when
I’m prescribing exercise for people, I’m still making an educated guess; I don’t know exactly what the outcome will be.
I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t actually (with certainty) know exactly what will transpire.
I think it’s sad that people adopt ‘other people’s truth’ because they can’t be bothered to think or explore for themselves.
It’s one thing to respect the opinion of others (parents, spiritual leaders, bosses), it’s another to be a drone or a pathetic replica of someone else.
It is important that we learn our own truth.
Listen to and respect others but don’t be them.
Think for yourself.
The meaning of life shouldn’t be about the accumulation of stuff, yet for many
people, it seems to be.
We talk the talk but more often than not, we don’t walk it.
Even (some) people who like to represent themselves as ‘seekers of the truth’ are full of crap when you get to know them beyond the public show.
The real them.
Sure, we sound all spiritual, philosophical and deep but under that skinny veneer we still obsess about what we have, what we look like and what people think of us.
And ultimately an un-winnable battle.
If I worried about what people thought of me, I wouldn’t write anything.
I absolutely know that a percentage of people won’t like what I write or like me.
I get criticised every day.
That’s okay, it’s called life.
I don’t want people to ‘agree’ with me, I want them to consider what I’ve written, to weigh it up… and ultimately, find their own truth.
To be challenged, confronted.
We don’t need Craig Harper clones… some people would argue that one is excessive.
I know that I’m wrong on a regular basis.
But if I’m not making mistakes, I’m dead.
So I wanna keep making them.
One thing I do know is… of all there is to know, I know virtually none of it, so who am I to be arrogant?
Big Winnie (Sir Winston Churchill) asserted that “we make a living by what we get and a life by what we give.”
So maybe the meaning of life is to give.
And by giving, we get the most.
Or maybe not.
Maybe it’s about getting that smaller ass and six-pack.
Er… probably not.
Maybe it’s different for all of us.
Maybe we need to find the meaning of life for ourselves.