“Tom, do you subscribe to Thoreau’s quote: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation?”
“Yes Dave, I do, but I’ve been fighting it all my life. I’ve been always looking for enjoyable things to do, but when I do find something I never do it.”
“Sad, isn’t it, Tom? My idea of quiet desperation is: our unmet desires, dreams unfulfilled. It’s the robotic movement through life as your dream of adventure is in the background.”
“Oh Dave, that’s a wonderful description.”
“Thank you Tom, I also think people never figure out what they really want to do in life, so they never do it. But you and I have found it, late in life, in our retirement! You with your amateur acting and me with my four books and blogs.”
“Right on Dave, so it’s the fight between heart and mind and our subsequent unhappiness by not listening to both sides.”
“So, how do we try to break out of our quiet desperation? We need to think about our longings and needs for meaning.”
“What are our needs for meaning, Dave?”
“Well Tom, to provide an answer to the longings mentioned, I would say that meaningful lives are lives of ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT in PROJECTS OF WORTH.”
“Wow! Dave, that’s a mouthful. What exactly is active engagement?”
“It’s when someone is so excited about something that they are completely gripped by it, things we are passionate about. You feel alive when you are actively engaged.”
“What projects then would be worthy?”
“Well Tom, I think it’s commitment to something of value that’s the key, such as your amateur acting and my writing. Your acting is enjoyable for you and it brings pleasure to others. My writing gives people information to act upon to live life better. Also, helping others would be a worthwhile project.”
“So Dave, a meaningful life must satisfy two things. First, there must be active engagement and second, it must be involvement in projects of worth.”
“And Tom, I would add, someone who is actively engaged may also lead a meaningless life, if the objects of their involvement are worthless, such as memorizing the dictionary or making hand written copies of War and Peace.”
We both laughed.
“In conclusion, a person asked me the other day: How can life have any meaning or worth if it must come to an END?”
Tom and Dave were silent for a few seconds.
“I answered this serious question: You fail to see that the opposite can also be proposed, if there were no end to life, life would have no value, it is the ever present danger of losing life which helps to bring home to us it’s value.”
Tom and Dave pondered that statement.
“Tom, have you read, The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy?”
“I dabbled in it, Dave, but it’s a big book”
“Well, if you remember, Deep Thought, the super computer, was asked about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Deep Thought’s verdict was “42”!
The builders of the computer were gobsmacked. They had the answer but they didn’t understand it. They didn’t know what it was the answer to.
If you want the right answers you must ask the right questions!”
Tom and Dave left the building vowing to look at the stars tonight.
Also published on Medium.