There are so many questions we ask ourselves over time. What am I here for? How can I be happy? What does it mean to live?
This last one is one of the most sought out answers in human history. What is the meaning of life? For those of us without religion to tell us, it can be a confusing question. Thoreau would tell you that it is simplicity, and becoming one with nature. This is a great thought, and I’m sure a lot of us would love to do as he did and live in a house in the woods, separate from all but the trees and the creatures living among them.
But for the twenty first century where every living, breathing moment is dictated by money, and pushing forward, and doing better, that’s not exactly realistic. Not all of us can even afford the house in the woods, much less find a wood untouched enough to actually be secluded.
So what is the meaning of life?
Well, that depends. You can live your entire life adventuring around the world, seeing amazing sights and meeting different people, and at the end of your life say, “I lived.”
But is that true?
Is “living” just in the eye of the beholder?
To merely exist is not living. You can travel around the world, wandering from country to country across mountains and sea, but not live. If all you do is travel, what do you accomplish? What purpose does it serve? If it is your purpose to travel, and you have, then you can satisfactorily say that you’ve lived before passing on to whatever comes next.
But if you drift here and there with no destination, with no goal in mind, that is not living. It is existing. Many people lose sight of what it means to live because they have nothing to pursue. They do not know what they want, or to what purpose they are. A person may not be born on this earth with a purpose, but they may find it, or it find them.
There is nothing as satisfying as finding a purpose. When I put pen to paper, something in my soul clicks and my heart settles in a way that no other activity quite causes. Though I have many pursuits and curiosities, I keep in mind my purpose; if y purpose is to write, and by the time I am ready to die, I have written, then I have lived.
There are things I want–I want to travel. I want to read and meet people and learn as many things as I can before I die. These, too, are purposes, that I pursue whole-heartedly. But it is not accomplishing all of them that makes me live; it is the pursuit. If by the time I lie on my deathbed I have not published as I wish, but I have written to my heart’s content, I will die happily with a pen in my frail hand or a computer propped onto my lap. Our pursuit is what keeps us going. Loss of that pursuit is what causes us to stop living.
If there is nothing for us to look forward to, what happens to us? We live by the hour, minute, drifting through the motions of modern life with no cut path. This is not living, and it’s what we have to avoid as much as we can.
Be wary, though, of having too many pursuits. If you find yourself stretched this way a
nd that between ten, fifteen different goals, you will accomplish none of them. Dedicate yourself to a small few, or even one, and you will be happy because you can put all of your effort and heart into those goals.
It doesn’t take extreme genius or talent to pursue purpose. Ones purpose can be as small as working a specific job, or as large as earning existential clarity. As long as one goes after their purpose with all their heart and effort, even if they don’t accomplish their goal, they will be happy knowing they wore themselves tired in going after it.