Sometimes I feel life is meaningless. It feels pointless, unceasing. We all toil at the same tasks: university, work, marriage, parenthood, retirement, then death. We can shake it up and (a) start a company, (b) move to Italy, (c) do psychedelics, or (d) all of the above, but ultimately we all share the same human experience.
Like Sisyphus we are doomed to roll rocks up mountains for eternity.
Yet I realized I'm not seeing life quite right when I see it this way. I'm a little deluded.
Consider the parable of the bricklayers.
Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?”
The first says, “I am laying bricks.”
The second says, “I am building a church.”
And the third says, “I am building the house of God.”
As Angela Duckworth put it, "The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling." Because laying bricks can be fulfilling if you see it that way.
My point being, life can be meaningful if you learn to see it that way.
Now it's not that life has a single purpose. Our minds love simplicity and so they try to reduce life to a single point.
But the reality is you can find meaning in a variety of activities.
Because any activity can be seen as meaningful. Whether it's:
- Helping a coworker
- Pushing yourself at the gym
- Spending time with your partner
- Working on a creative project
- Or traveling with friends
Now all of this is easier said than done.
Sure, each and every activity can be seen as meaningful. But how do you start seeing it that way?
First, realize each moment is the last of its kind
First, realize that each moment is last of its kind.
- There'll be a last time you hang out with your roommate
- There'll be a last time you go on a trip with your parents
- There'll be a last day you work your current job with your coworkers
- There'll be a last time you go to your favorite coffee shop in this city
I try to remember that I'm living "the good old days," right now.
In a similar vein, in a book I read an older woman travels back in time and wakes up 16 again. She marvels at her life at 16. She especially appreciates her dad being alive and in good health.
Ask yourself this. If you traveled back in time to your current age, what would you miss and appreciate?
Second, notice your impact on people
Angela Duckworth says work can be more meaningful if we tune into how our work impacts other people.
I connect with this. At work I get to help marketers (our customers).
I'm part of a team and I'm building shit with the homies.
All this feels real good.
What small ways do you impact or help people? At work or outside work?
Maybe you made someone smile, or you helped them with directions.
Maybe you helped them see life in a new way.
Whatever it is, you made a difference.
Third, enjoy more TV (and fiction)
After watching so many kdramas I see the emotion in small moments.
Kdramas have this ability to zoom in on a moment in a character's life and share the emotion of it. Whether it's a mom buying a son a pricey suit or a son making a mom feel needed, an orphan dying in the arms of a new love, or the joy of living in your hometown. They'll set the moment to music and use a profound piece of dialogue and I will just melt.
This carries over to real life. One time when my boss went out of his way to say goodbye to me at the office. I saw the sweetness of that.
Kdramas in particular appreciate the small moments.
But all stories do this. The more stories you consume, the better you'll get at seeing the story in your life.
Relatedly, this is how writers and especially novelists are able to find life so meaningful. This is half of why I returned to writing. Stories and writing gives you the space to romanticize life and see the magic of it.
I'm inspired by the author Haruki Murakami - he's able to see and portray running as so magical. Running can be mundane, but he sees it as romantic and I want to be able to see the activities of my life (like lifting) the same way.
Finally, give yourself permission
Most importantly, give yourself permission to see life as full of meaning.
You might feel you're tricking yourself to achieve this effect, but to me seeing life this way is more true. In meditation I learned that when your thoughts recede and you see the universe for what it truly is, you experience not apathy, but peace, calm, joy, bliss, and a deep deep compassion.
I see all this work as work to see the world more clearly.
What I'm trying to say here is that life is beautiful. Let's try and see it that way :)
- Life doesn't have a single point. Any activity can be meaningful
- Each moment is the last of its kind. You're living the good old days, right now
- Notice your impact on people
- Enjoy more TV and fiction
- Give yourself permission to see life as meaningful
Now I would like to acknowledge that it is Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!
Love you all and thanks for reading💕