Meaning filled life
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
What do I want?
What is real?
What is true?
These questions form our search for meaning. The internal quest to find meaning takes courage to look within and trust. We may not have all the answers but as Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
Meanings are assigned in our minds and perpetuated by common agreement in society for example “all —- people are XX##”. Place, time, needs, mood and heritage influence meaning this is seen in the re naming of Ayers Rock to Uluru. Meanings can be shared or not even becoming causes of disagreement potentially war.
Things do not have meaning – they simply are. My Mum was a Preschool Teacher she recalled a 4 year old saying a classmate had sworn at him. She asked what had been said. He responded that his classmate had said “Gramophone and Singapore!” Innocuous words meaning changed.
Asking questions of ourselves helps us to balance what we say with what we do. It could be in a journal or with a trusted friend that we ponder and explore big questions. Placing our priorities and values under the microscope prompts us to live in line with these, building personal integrity. No one has all the answers, for as stated by Travis and Ryan 2004, p.268.
“Learning to live with our eyes and hearts open in the gaps, filled with uncertainties and questioned priorities, is probably more important than coming up with any definitive answers once and for all – for there may be none. Meaning may be found in the process not the result.”
Meaning in the Now
The passed is done and the future yet to come – it is in the now with awareness that we gain meaning and happiness. It takes practice to cultivate this skill that lets us savour each moment. Witnessing the creation and destruction of a sand mandala reminds me of this art of nonattachment. Beating ourselves up when we fall off our path is pointless and who knows where the new path leads.
Dying to know
Meaning in life can be gained in looking at the ending. Fears relating to death such as the unknown, loss of control and loss of loved ones can impact on how we live. Dying to know is the title of a book (found at www. pilotlight.org.au) that brings death to life with humour and sensitivity.
The relationship of death and failure needs to be killed (oops gone too far) as there is no meaning in who lives the longest. Death is not the ultimate enemy to wage war against it is the one certainty we all will face – its our inheritance. We study birth in antenatal class yet forget life’s end. What a person wishes is secret until we have a conversation with them. Here are some prompts to start a deep and meaningful ending.
- Who would you like to care for you?
- What do you want or not with medical interventions?
- Do you want to die at home, hospital?
- What is your emotional will? eg: a joke for Dad, love for a partner.
- How do you want your life celebrated?
- Do you want to donate your organs? Please answer this question currently there are 17000 people in Australia waiting for organ transplants. My friend Peter Chwal was fortunate to receive a liver after waiting for 15 months. His charity at www.donormate.org.au asks us to consider this final way of achieving a meaningful life.
Life is a mystery live it with meaning as you grow old it will evolve. One winter day I was cycling and got caught in a heavy rainfall there was one other brave soul meeting the elements. We laughed as he cried out “WE must be crazy!” and I responded “or optimists?”. For as Monty Python sang in the Life of Brian (1979) “Always look on the bright side of life” when searching for meaning. For a laugh watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPOzQzk9Qo
Travis, J and Ryan, R (2004) Wellness Workbook, Celestial arts, Berkley