Searching For Meaning

I feel odd sometimes when I think about my mortality and the future. It is just so hard to fathom what it would be like to no longer be alive. What does the afterlife truly bring? Will I be floating around still existing in some other form? Will I still be able to see the world and all the things that are occurring? It is mind-blowing to think what it would be like to no longer wake-up each morning and no longer be able to smell the air or feel the rays of the sun on my skin. You know it’s so easy to get caught up day after day in the routine of what we call a normal life. We wake each morning we get coffee, we eat breakfast, we shower, and we head off to work. We worry about bills, we worry about our kids.

We focus our attention on mundane tasks that we place such urgency to get completed. But what does it all mean? Why is it so important? Thinking about all the things that I’ve read and learned from individuals like Henry David Thoreau or Victor Frankel and their search for meaning and happiness in this world, I tend to see that there is no happiness in focusing on the world in itself.  Let me explain. We continually hear that material possessions and money do not bring happiness. So if this is the case, then what truly does bring happiness? Is it just having a loving family? Is it just focusing on our faith and trying to be the best person we possibly can be?

We each have our thoughts and ideas of what brings true happiness and what we should do in this world to achieve it.  Some people believe finding true happiness is easy. For others, it’s a never-ending quest of disappointment after disappointment and failure after failure. I once read that with much knowledge comes much sorrow. I believe this is a true statement because the more you know, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you see the world for what it is, and then you understand how powerless you are to change the world. You can seek knowledge; you can seek corporate success and climbed the ladder to make millions of dollars, or you could just have a normal job and make a decent living.  Either way, it will all be for nothing; in the end, you will find the same fate as everyone else. At some point, you will pass from this world. You will be cremated or placed in a wooden box in the earth. Those that survive you will go on existing until they meet the same fate. The memory of you will pass and fade away over time. You’ll become nothing more than a forgotten soul like the many millions and millions of others that came before you.

Thinking about all of this can make you feel hopeless. You see if our life is just a flash, a brief moment in time, what then can we hope to accomplish?  What in this life will bring us happiness and purpose? Some people do everything they can to leave their mark in this world. They put all their effort into trying to make a difference.  Some have even been able to change the world and the way people think. But for the majority, the rest of the masses, they are just sheep following each other with no clear goal or individual thoughts of their own. They jump on the bandwagon of emotions, fueled by anger, desperation, frustration, hopelessness, and fear. Individual accountability, individual thought, and individual decisions don’t exist for most of the masses. There truly happy and content following everybody else, even if that means running off a cliff to their demise. So what is one to do then? What should be our purpose in this life? Why do anything else but just eat, sleep, and breathe?

Looking back on my life, I won’t change anything. Every experience, every disappointment, every success, every failure, and especially every mistake I have ever made helped make me who I am today. Life is a struggle, a battle, and you cannot go through it without being scarred in some way. I have experienced many moments of happiness and pain. I’ve made many mistakes, I’ve hurt people I love, I’ve hurt people that I don’t know. I often question myself. I asked myself, am I truly a good person? Am I truly a good example to those around me? On numerous occasions, I have not been. It is so easy to slip into this state of selfishness and self-preservation. To truly just think about yourself and focus on achieving your plan. We all do it; we just don’t admit it. People will say they are not selfish and that they are not a bad person.  But of course, you’ll never find anyone that will say they are a bad person. I can just hear the arguments now of all the people pleading their case to justify their actions as righteous. None of us are that righteous; none of us are that good.

I will say that there are some outstanding people in this world. Some people strive day in and day out to be the best possible person that they can be. They work each day to help everyone that they can. But why are they doing it? Their motivation could be driven by their past, by their failures, or by their secret desire to be recognized. We are human, and deep down, we each want to be happy; we each want to be loved, we each want to enjoy life. If this is the case, then there is a certain level of selfishness that exists in each of us. Nobody is perfect. I, for one, am far from perfect. I do work daily on being a good person. I want to help as many people as I can. I want to make a difference. Yet, I think these desires and beliefs are driven by the thoughts of my mortality and the desire not to be forgotten.

I will die one day. I don’t know if my death will be celebrated in a wave of parties, with the masses shouting, thank God he’s gone. I don’t know if anyone will mourn my passing. I don’t even know if I will be remembered at all. Once my children are gone, the likelihood of my grandchildren remembering who I was is just wishful thinking. So what do we do? If everything on this earth and under the sun that we fight for is for nothing in the end.  What then do we strive for? What is our purpose? What is the meaning of our existence? What should we pursue in this life? Our time on this earth is measured, and our clock is ticking away slowly. We do not know when we shall cease to exist in this physical form, so what should we do with the time we have? I don’t have an answer to this. I don’t think anybody has an answer to this. People have ideas; they have thoughts of what the answer might be. But no matter what people say the answer is, no one truly knows.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost. You may even find that your life’s purpose has shattered and crumbled to dust after considering all of this. You may begin to question yourself and ask, what is my goal? You may begin to question your individuality and existence.  Before reading this, you may have been focused on what the masses want; your purpose in life was a lot simpler. Like the masses, you focused on having a family, a house, a job, a retirement. You may be working on your education to get a dream job.  A dream job that will help you become financially secure and enjoy the finest things in life, a home, a car, a big-screen TV, a patio, and a pool in the back yard. Your dream job will also fund that wonderful vacation to foreign and exotic places.  Don’t get me wrong; these are all awesome things, and really, why shouldn’t you enjoy these wonderful things? Why shouldn’t we search for new experiences that we can share with the people we love? Why should we not taste the finest things the world has to offer?

If our life is short and we’re going to die anyway, why not live what life we have to the fullest? The question then is if we are seeking out our happiness, our pleasure, and enjoying everything that life has to offer here and now, are we being selfish? Are we only thinking about ourselves? Are we putting our needs above everyone else’s? I’m not sure; I don’t have the answer. I say all this because I think it’s important that we talk about these things. Some people think that they have the answers, and they often demand that we agree with them.  I think these people are only trying to justify their own decisions and actions. However, it doesn’t make them right or wrong.

I sometimes think about what it would be like to live in the past when there was no technology when there were no automobiles. When industries and this great economic machine that we are all stuck in now did not exist. Think about it; imagine yourself in the 1800s, living on the open land, having to build your own home from trees and earth. Having to wake each day to grow your food, tend to your livestock, and having no neighbors for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Just you, maybe a significant other, maybe children, living in the middle of nowhere.  You spend each day focused on just surviving. Life, at its simplest, gathering the essential things needed to exist in this world.  Searching for clean water to drink, tending to small plots of various types of vegetables, tending to livestock, horses, chickens, and then having to preserve the food you harvest to survive the winter months. It’s an endless cycle driven by each passing season. You don’t have to worry about your favorite sports team, whether or not they will win the championship that year. You don’t have to worry about if your car has enough gas to get to work. You don’t have to worry about bills for electricity, water, cable, and cell service. You don’t have to worry about the rising prices of food, or even fighting the never-ending lines to get the next black Friday deal. You would not have to pay outrageous prices for clothes because you would have to make them yourself.  Oh no, there goes Gucci, Versace, and God forbid you can’t get that next Michael Kors purse. Family time would truly be family time. You wouldn’t have anybody else to talk to except your spouse and children—what a wonderful concept. You would not have a boy’s/girl’s night out; you would not have a local bar or tavern to go to unwind after a long day’s work. You wouldn’t be distracted by that attractive member of the opposite sex that you see every day going to work or in the grocery store. You would be truly committed and faithful to your spouse. Divorce and separation would not exist. Children would grow in a unified family environment and not have to suffer the pain of a single-family home.   Your children’s education would rest solely in your hands. You would be directly responsible for what type of person they become. Your children would not be influenced by their friend’s negative ways. They would be taught the knowledge and skills they need to survive in the world without the distractions of cellular phones, late-night TV, video games, or the desire to fit in. Your children would not have to face bullying, teasing, or even peer pressure to engage in promiscuous sexual behavior or even try illegal substances.

I don’t have all the answers. I may be completely off base, but I wanted to share my thoughts. I’m on my journey, trying to figure out what all of this means—reflecting on all that has transpired in my life up until this time. I’ve accomplished a great many things; I failed at even more. I’ve disappointed and hurt my family, my friends, and even folks I didn’t even know. That being said, all of my decisions and actions from my past have helped make me who I am today. Even though I have disappointed and hurt people I love and know, it does not define who I am as an individual. If anything, these experiences have fueled my desire to become the best possible version of myself. To find and define the meaning of my life. I can only control how I see the world, how I respond to the world, and what I do in this world. My path and my future, therefore, is unclear. I don’t know what the next moment, hour, day, or year will bring. But I do know I must face it. I must deal with each moment in time. I must deal with each event as it presents itself, and I must decide on how to react.

I ask you to take some time and absorb all that I’ve shared. It may be total nonsense; it may just be the ramblings of a middle-aged man seeking the true meaning of life. But it’s something I wanted to share. There are far too many of us in this world right now that are feeling and experiencing everything that I’ve mentioned. There are many people in this world right now that are suffering, that are feeling lost, or are just overwhelmed by hopelessness. That’s not the way we were meant to feel. We should be happy; we should have love in our life. We should be able to embrace the joy of what life brings us. Achieving true happiness and meaning requires us to do some serious internal reflection of ourselves. We have to admit our weaknesses, our flawed thought processes, are selfishness and negative views of the world. We have to check our sense of entitlement. Nobody owes us nothing; nobody has to do anything for us. We don’t deserve anything. We have to earn everything in this life. Nothing is given for free. But once you earn it, once you get what you go after, it’s yours.

Look at your life right now. Look at your life as if it is your last day on earth.  All you have is the few hours left in the day.  Tomorrow morning you will not wake; you will not be given a second chance; you will lose the chance to make a difference. Everything that you can do must be done today.  Take advantage of the opportunities you have today. Put those decisions and actions into play now, and if you do wake tomorrow, you have one more day to do it all over again.  I can’t tell you what to go after in this life because I don’t know myself. But I do know that we each have to choose our direction; we do have to make decisions. We have to face the day and all that comes with it. The only freedom we have is choosing what we do with our time today. We have the freedom to choose how we react today.

If this was your last day, how would you spend it? Would you react the same way to each situation you encounter today if you knew you wouldn’t be here tomorrow? Would you pass up telling your spouse or significant other that you truly love them? Would you dismiss your kids so quickly if you were only a few hours away from taking your last breath? Take advantage of the time you have right now.  Do something, even if it’s not a big thing, make a difference in somebody’s life today.

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