Objects of Meaning
I recently came across an internet articles written by Mark Manson. I apologize to Mr. Manson that I don’t recognize his name not have I ever been to his website, markmanson.net before. I ended up there via a search engine and, while I thoroughly enjoyed the read, am not certain why I was directed to this particular story. I saved it though because I found it interesting. It had meaning for me.
The article/story concerns finding one’s purpose in life and discusses how to determine what path one should take. Mr. Manson has seven questions the reader is told to answer to help determine what journey to take to achieve this. I am not quoting the questions directly but think I have managed to retain their core meaning. The first question asks what type of bad “sandwich” are you able to stomach. Mr. Manson phrases his question more humorously and his wording is designed to capture your attention and it does. I am not repeating it verbatim because of censorship restrictions in some of the countries in which this blog is read (The same reason we no longer have videos accompanying each article.). It is a novel approach but a valid one, I think. After all, everything has its downside so asking what are you willing to put up with in your life’s profession is one way to consider a selected path. Does the job or purpose override the negative aspects of it?
The second question involves what about you as an adult do you not really like. Mr. Manson asks “What is it about you today that would make your eight-year-old self cry?” In other words, what did you love to do as that young child that, for some unknown reason, you stopped doing as an adult? Maybe you should consider that as a life’s work, Manson advises. Most of us discover early on an activity that gives us great joy. Often that activity gets lost in the dust of maturity. Sometimes it can and possibly should segue into a career path. The third question involves asking what is it that you enjoy doing so much that you forget to eat. Any activity that holds more meaning than basic bodily functions is probably an activity you will be true and learn to accomplish with a high degree of success. The musician who loves playing will most likely stay the course through countless hours of endless practicing basic techniques, for an example.
Manson continues his series of questions discussing what has meaning to the reader and not their family or friends. All too often we shy away from our own desires due to peer pressure. Manson also asks how the reader can best contribute to society asking “How are you going to save the world?” Most of us cannot cure cancer, AIDS, or Ebola. We can, however, make our own corner of the world better and brighter. If science is your thing, then maybe you CAN cure those diseases. If you are a great persuasive public speaker, then maybe you can motivate people into forming advocacy groups. If you are a world-class salesman, then perhaps you could sign people up to donate to organizations. Ten dollars can save five families from Mosquito-bred illnesses by providing mosquito netting. You might not cure those illnesses but preventing them is even better.
Manson mentions what is most likely the most basic enemy we all have in giving our lives meaning – laziness. He imagines the situation of someone putting a gun to your head and insisting you leave your house. Manson asks the reader “Where would you go?” If you’d go shopping, then maybe a career in retail is for you. If you’d go to the library, then maybe you should become a librarian or a literary editor, etc. Perhaps you should be a writer. Manson’s final question involves legacy. How do you want to be remembered after you die? It is not a comfortable question but perhaps the most valid question of all.
Yesterday we discussed location and how where we walk often portrays what we believe in and feel. What we do says more about who we are than any amount of wealth we might leave in our wills after our death. Death is not a topic most people like to discuss. It is the one thing we have in common with each and every other human being after birth. We do all, at some point, stop living in our current body, in this current form. Regardless of one’s spirituality or religion, that is a basic fact. What happens next is a personal decision, just as how we live is a personal choice. We find meaning in our lives when we make our living meaningful. Joseph Campbell once said: “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” We are the most important object of meaning in our lives and we are what makes it meaningful.