Isn’t life a bit like taking a trip to some unknown destination? Let’s call our destination Meaning. If your trip is well planned and organized you will want directions to where you are going. But, before you can get those directions you will need to know where you are starting from. This all seems simple enough.
It’s time for a truth test. Have you noticed how we all wear different hats. Sometimes we even wear different hats at the same time. In our haste to find our way to Meaning we often fall victim to the latest “in” terms. Adjectives that we unquestionably accept as true. Some of these adjectives include descriptors like:
“Soccer mom”, “Easy”, “A loud mouth”, “Smart/stupid”, “Fat/skinny/Wow”, “Nerd”, “Friend”, “Rich/poor”, “Lazy/on their way to the top”
Is it any wonder that we get confused about who we are or what our role in life is?
Added to this is a world of contradictions, or mixed messages. Such things as the generation you most identify with, your gender, your position in life, and your level of involvement in the world around you all influence how you filter these mixed messages. Here are just a few of these messages:
“Stop and smell the roses”
“I want the world and I want it now!”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”
“The truth is in the details”
“It is what it is”
“You’re in charge.”
The last factor holding many of us back from finding our own place called Meaning is our increased dependence on instant gratification. Gone for many is the patience needed to see things through to their logical outcome. It is difficult to have an attachment to things that are disposable.
There is a place called Meaning. Psychology in general and more specifically the work of the late German-Jewish physician/therapist Victor Frankl teaches us that we possess an inner drive to find it. At some level all that we are and do is the result of our journey to Meaning. It is a mystical place in the mind, both real and surreal. There, in Meaning, is where we encounter all sorts of choices. It is in those choices that the kind of person we are is determined.
Granted, most of us spend little time sitting around contemplating Meaning. In those quiet moments, especially after some highly charged emotional event, we may feel pangs of anxiety, guilt, or satisfaction over our response, but to actually give Meaning the time it deserves, probably not.
If asked to describe that place called Meaning for a travel guide it might sound like this:
“Meaning is one of many villages scattered throughout the human landscape. Resident’s who are active members of the village will tell of an industrious place, where opportunities abound. Meaning enjoys a value driven lifestyle, the freedom of choice, and personal satisfaction. It has long been the recipient of criticism for its laid back acceptance of what is. It is a landmark destination for those seeking a way to a better life.”
There are inherent risks in our avoidance of a search for Meaning. For example
- Missed opportunities
- Wasted time
- Lost relationships
- Personal confusion
And worst of all, never knowing why your life is important.
Making the Most of Meaning
If there are any words of advice regarding how to benefit from our place in Meaning, at the top of the list is the knowledge that this an intentional community. Meaning calls us to be actively involved in its life with forethought and participation.
Without our forethought and participation Meaning can seem like a chaotic place with no sense of direction or purpose, This is because things don’t”just happen” in Meaning, they are brought about. If you are not prepared, getting around in Meaning is similar to driving on icy streets with bald tires; very slippery.
While difficult, this is not impossible. It does require focus
Another term important to understand when traveling to Meaning is something called living a value driven life. This simply means that the choices you make are based on what you value, what is important to you. Let’s say that you place a high personal value on fairness, the golden rule, informing your decisions. What then do you think your response should be when faced with the following:
A group of friends is sitting around talking. Their attention turns to a member of the group who is not there. They take turns bad mouthing this person over petty, gossipy things. Everyone wants to know what you think. How do you respond?
- You join in and share something personal about that person
- You smile at all that has been said, but don’t add anything.
- You point out to the others how unfair this is.
If you are living a value driven life response #3 will bear witness to it. Even more interesting is that the more you respond to things based on your values the easier it becomes to act this way.
And, There You Are
Chief among the many benefits of implementing meaning in your life is found in how meaning turns the all to common goal to “feel better” on its head. In Meaning you learn not how to feel better, but rather how to better feel. As Viktor Frankl points out arrival at Meaning does not protect you from encountering painful situations, but it shows us their meaning.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lindseykone/5362282427