Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yeah, but what's it all *mean*?

I've endeavored for many years now to track down the "meaning" -- assuming it can be said to have one -- of life.

This is not to say that I necessarily believe that there is a single, catch-all, explanation of why we are here. An answer that, upon hearing it, would inspire each and every one of us to gasp in shock and amazement, and say, "Ooooooh, now I get it."

Life, for all our attempts to inject meaning into it, is, when left to its own devices, ultimately meaningless. We are here for X number of years between birth and death, and left to fill that void of time in whatever way we choose. Whether we entertain ourselves with television or video games, flex our creative muscles by writing or painting, or perform random acts of selfless kindness, the bottom line is still simply that we are looking for ways to kill time until we die.

Which, when you think about it, is kind of a depressing thought.

Which is why I try to find meaning when and wherever I can.

William Peter Blatty, the author of the Exorcist, has an interesting take on the idea of a God that would put us on this planet, give us free will, and then, for the most part, pretty much just leave us alone. I mean, why not just make us all good people? Why not just wipe away death and sin and greed and all the ugliness, and make everyone happy and perfect?

His idea is that truly honourable traits -- like selflessness, courage, sacrifice -- are not things that can simply be handed to someone. They have to be learned. You can't be courageous without being afraid. You can't have shown courage without first going through something terrifying, something potentially fatal, perhaps even something that *was* fatal.

These are things that have to be learned. Things that have to be earned.

I have a very similar approach to finding *meaning* in life.

Given that there is no all-encompassing answer to the question of why we are here, it is left to us to instead find meaning every single day. To take every event, from the most earth-shattering to the most mind-numbingly mundane, and find within in a lesson that we can learn, or a way to inject a newfound passion into our life, or, at the very least, a way of saying, "Today wasn't entirely pointless."

The best lessons in life aren't the obvious ones. The best lessons are the ones you have to dig for, the ones you have to ask questions to find, because they are stronger and far more profound for the work that you have put into them.

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