The hardest question to answer is "What is the meaning of life?" It supposes that there is one answer, some cure-all for the ills of life. Some missing ingredient that others have and I do not.
There are, of course, lots of answers, however, I am going to contend that it is actually the wrong question. Asking it will never yield the answer.
The question we should ask ourselves is, "How do I give meaning to my life?"
The difference is more than semantics. It is a fundamental change in how to find joy in the remaining time we have on this planet.
Marcus Aurelius wrote:
For the passing minute is every man's equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.
He does not presume we are each given the same time to live, nor do we receive the same resources, but what we have is this minute, right now.
By reframing the question of how I, and I alone, might find meaning requires an introspection of the sort that strips away any judgement. I can not judge what gives other’s meaning, nor against an ideal meaning.
If you are a person of faith, then that is how you find meaning. If you are a person who thrives on social interactions, then your life will gain meaning by focusing on nurturing those relationships.
Last week I wrote about the value of sport. For millions of people around the world, sport gives meaning to their lives. This week there was an article about two fans of Liverpool who are flying from Australia to Paris just to be at the public viewing of the finals. These two guys will fly over twenty-two hours just to watch a 90 minute football match on a giant screen amongst other Liverpool fans.
The idea of meaning doesn't have to span beyond the present minute. I have thought about flying to Italy for my birthday this year just to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds play. It would be a meaningful experience for me.
I am not going because there is something that can provide me more meaning during the winter holidays.
And this idea of nuance in meaning is where things can get really interesting. I'd rather work feverishly on my current manuscript than travel overseas. A mate is flying overseas to see The Rolling Stones play in Hyde Park.
Some meaning can be fleeting, and it can be the sort that provides long-term identity forming meaning.
For me, building my house counts as long-term. I love living in the house that I built. Writing long-form fiction is also a love of mine. I might only write 250 words in a morning, but it is building to something bigger.
One of my most memorable birthdays was when I and an ex were at a holiday home for the holidays and I got to sit and write ALL day. I wrote 5,000 words. She was bored shitless, but I was loving every moment.
The lesson is simple: lean into what gives you long-term meaning while enjoying the short-term pleasures. And above all, avoid those things that ultimately don't give you meaning.