Purpose and meaning are NOT built in to human life. It’s NOT that life is meaningless, it’s that life has NO predetermined meaning,” said the man on the green padded stool.
Oh my, the wisdom that comes out from sitting on a green padded stool! It just so
happens that my favorite watering hole has twenty of them all in a line at the bar.
That man on the stool is my buddy, Tom, and I am Dave, sitting next to him. This afternoon we decided to see how much wisdom we could glean from sitting on green padded stools.
“Well Tom, your opening remark was pithy, I have to say. It could be very empowering and liberating if we could create our own meaning in our lives.”
“Oh boy Dave, I like those words: empowering and liberating. But the sad story is that many people believe the world would not notice if they never existed!”
“Hopefully, we can get some meaning and purpose from our struggles. It’s sort of a journey of becoming,” I said, after taking a sip of my beer, “Tell me Tom, what is one way to get meaning in your life?”
Tom pondered that for a moment, then said:
“How about helping others, what’s the word, ALTRUISM, that’s it.”
“Yes Tom, that’s a good way to get meaning in your life but some would say that you’re helping others to feel good yourself!”
“I believe it’s a two way street, your help benefits others and in doing so gives you a good feeling of purpose.”
“Another way to get meaning is serving society for the greater good. This is similar to altruism in that you’re relegating one’s own interests to second place for humanity’s betterment. Some politicians try to make life better for society by making government their life’s work.”
Tom’s face lit up as he said:
“Being happy in life and sustaining it would be meaningful.”
“Yes, I can see that happiness is an enduring state of pleasure and the happy person can probably endure the misfortunes that life throws at us better than those who aren’t happy.
But instead of the word happiness, I would use the word, contentment. We all have ups and downs and then happiness is interrupted. But if we are thankful for what we have we should be content.”
“How about SUCCESS in your endeavors being meaningful. Some people want a lot of recognition for their success, but just living your life pursuing your passions, no matter what recognition you get, should be seen as success and therefore meaningful.”
Boy, oh boy, the green padded stools were heating up now!
Tom started singing:
“What’s it all about, Dave.
Is it just for the moment we live?…”
“Hey Tom, that’s another meaningful purpose: “Carpe Diem”, seize the day. We are all trapped in the present, it’s the only life we have, so we should make the most of our present.”
“But Dave, does seize the day mean only to have as much pleasure as possible?”
“No Tom, seize the day means whatever we value in life, whether it be relationships, creativity, learning, food, sex, or travel, carpe diem is a call to appreciate these things while we can and not to put them off. In other words, to make every day COUNT.”
“Oh, I see Dave, the wisdom of carpe diem is that time is short, and this is the only life we have, so don’t squander it.”
“Eastern Philosophy, such as Buddhism, which calls for a “freeing of the mind”, is another way to find meaning. The purpose is to open your mind and let go of your ego. Attune yourself to the rhythms of nature. By freeing your mind the “I” becomes unimportant, and letting go is a meaningful exercise.”
“So Dave, this meditation might give us a feeling of freedom that almost can’t be expressed in words.”
“That’s right, my friend, it seems the older we get the more philosophizing we do, which is good, it makes us think.”
We both ordered another beer to celebrate the wonder of the green padded stools.
“Well Tom, we have uncovered ways to construct a purposeful and meaningful life. We’ve confronted the fragility and unpredictability of life and we’ve come up with ideas to do the best we can with it.”
Tom and I took long gulps of our beer and drained our glasses.
I took a deep breath and said:
“Someone once said: “My life has no purpose, no direction, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. What am I doing right?”
And then some philosopher said: “We should confront the absurdity of life with courage.”
With that, Tom and I walked out into the sunshine and went our separate ways.
Also published on Medium.