Man’s eternal quest for the meaning of life. I’ve pondered that very same question for more years than I care to admit to. My quest certainly began long before my so-called adult years, as memories from my childhood will readily attest to. My ex-wife used to refer to me as a deep thinker, in the most derogatory way possible, as if being a deep thinker was the worst imaginable thing possible, and a mortal sin to boot (and to be punished severely as such).
“What is the meaning of life?”
My brain works a bit like Albert Einstein’s. Oh, I make no pretense of genius. But good old Albert shared his thought process one time, and I could immediately relate. Paraphrased he said something like: I just stuff my head with facts, figures and ideas, and then let my brain mix it all up. Then I wait (and sometimes I wait along time), but eventually an answer or insight presents itself. Okay, I admit this statement was heavily paraphrased. I think what he was saying, though, was that his brain worked liked a computer; stuffed full data, and given sufficient time, an answer (or result) would finally emerge without conscious thought being brought to the process.
People who know me (really know me) understand that I am an inordinately curious person. And that I am easily bored. When I am bored I get depressed, so it’s important for me to stay physically and mentally engaged as much as possible. To do otherwise is detrimental to my overall health. So, for me, there is no better medicine than RTW (Round the World) travel. But back to the original question: “What is the meaning of life?”
I’ve shared the following anecdote before: I once watched a movie called City Slickers, with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Long story short, it’s about a group of citified friends (Dudes) signing up for the cattle drive experience. Curly, played by Jack Palance, is the crusty, old and very wise cowboy trail boss. At one point in the movie Curly raises a single finger, and tells Billy Crystal’s character: “Life is about just one thing.” When Crystal asks what that one thing is, Curly just smiles and says: “That’s for you to figure out.”
That scene haunted me for years, until I answered the question for myself. The one thing, for me, is: Perspective. With proper perspective everything snaps into clear focus. It’s the old “You can’t see the forest for the trees” thing. If you’re too close to a problem (or situation) you often miss its true meaning within the context of the bigger picture. In the pursuit of the meaning of life, I have studied Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism (and other ism’s), Islam and Christianity. I have read the Tao Te Ching, the Buddhist canons, the Koran and the Bible. I have read the words of Lao Tze, the Buddha, the Prophet Mohamed and Jesus Christ amongst others.
After 68-years of stuffing my computerized-brain with facts, figures, thoughts and readings, what has emerged is this:
“Life is meant to be lived”
Simply stated, that is our purpose, to simply live the life we have been given. Nothing less, nothing more. The Buddhists say to live in the moment; other disciplines say it in different ways. 68-years, and a lifetime of experiences, have provided the necessary perspective (Curly’s one thing) to finally appreciate the answer. So simple, yet so damn difficult.