What Does All of This Mean?
Human beings are steeped in meaningful traditions. As the holidays approach, we engage in everything “holy” and sacred to us and to our families. We decorate trees with heirloom ornaments and lights. We sing songs passed down for generations. We buy gifts and host parties. We gather to connect as human beings under a co-mingled premise: that this time of year has real meaning!
On the flip side of all that, there’s pressure and a promise that we should be having an extraordinary experience right now. Our kids should be wide-eyed and golden. Our relationships blissful and perfect. Our homes beautiful and bright. But what if they aren’t?
Where is the meaning when things don’t look like what they ought to?
We all go through times when we question the meaning of life. And the holidays (depending on your circumstances any given year) can be a particularly ripe time for that. When we feel disconnected from tradition, it’s easy to feel lonely, lost and lacking. Our usual societal expectations that become amplified with added consumer expectations. So if you’re focused on external circumstances to give your life meaning, not having what others have can whittle away at your sense of value and worth.
We become disappointed at not finding meaning “out there.” We feel confused about why we’re here as a human being at this time. We may even feel broken or inferior as we look around at everyone else who seems to fit in and have a place in the world. What about me? We ask. Where is the meaning in my life?
Meaning is not inherent. Meaning is simply what we think based on a set of underlying beliefs. Therefore if we want anything to have meaning, we must think it and apply it. Nothing outside of us, no holiday tradition, no jingle song or much-wanted present can give our lives meaning. In the same way you can’t make a lump of dough rise into bread without adding active yeast to the mix.
You have to add meaning if you want it to exist.
A heavy snowfall can mean a magical landscape of crystalline white beauty surrounding me. Or it can be a hassle, a spoiler of plans. I decide the meaning I give it each time the snow begins to fall. There is nothing in existence exempt from this law, not even you.
I realize this can feel like a heavy burden, or you can embrace it as your greatest power. Again, based on how you want to give meaning to it. If you decide to own it and be responsible for the way you apply your thoughts, you’ll be accepting your own free will, the power to interpret experience, change your thoughts and apply meaning to any circumstance you experience.
The meaning of your life in particular can only be found inside of you, not out there. Stop allowing yourself to be sold on commercials and billboards. You won’t find it there. Stop giving it serious attention. You have to sit quietly and ask your Soul what it wants for you every day. Be patient…its answer comes in whispers, urges and feelings. You must tune in to hear it. You’ll recognize it when it triggers emotions in you, like when you feel really angry or sad, or both about something going on in the world. About something going on with you.
Maybe you feel sad/regret over abandoning something you once enjoyed when you were younger.
Maybe you feel angered by the destruction of something you love, forests, rivers, the sea.
Maybe you feel words, music or colors rise up in you and you don’t know what to do with any of that.
Maybe you feel an urge to go, run, move and you simply push it away.
Maybe you’ve been pressing yourself into a mold that’s not right for you.
Creating meaning requires you to do only two simple things:
- Go within to learn about who you are.
- Share it with others.
We find the most meaning in life when we’re able to honor our feelings and discover our gifts by giving them to others. Viktor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, states, “The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.” Your personal gifts are the key to unlocking the meaning of human existence. I’m not talking about gifts you wrap and unwrap, but the small acts of service from one person to another that make us feel more human.