We look for meaning in everything, and through meaning, anything can become important. Once we perceive something to be important, we become a slave to it.
So then, when nothing is inherently important, that’s where freedom can be found: a space to create our own meaning, a space to be happy in. Everyone is unhappy at some time or another. It’s what drives us to aspire to put things into action that will make us happy. No one is ever always happy, and no one is ever always unhappy. Of course, we are talking about the majority here, there are always exceptions. For most of us, life is mostly hard, punctuated by moments of happiness.
If an animal does not eat it will starve. If it does not drink it will die of thirst. Despite this, it does not seem to care about meaning, and yet it can still be happy (take my pets, for example, they do not overthink things, yet they are content). Is it because only events within our shared reality truly have any measurable effect on our lives? Like the reality of starvation for example. Whereas things like “meaning” are creations of the mind, like the meaning of life: an idea that has brought much angst to many. Even though these philosophical riddles do not truly exist outside the mind.
So why are we so bothered by the imaginary? There are many different reasons. Sometimes meaning can be like a disease inflicted by conmen so that they can try to sell us the cure. This can lead to a life spent accommodating the more fortunate. Lending an ear to those who never listen. Offering kindness to hearts of stone. On the other hand, without meaning, events or memories can lack context. A special tree that someone had their first kiss under has meaning to one person but is just a tree to someone else. So meaning can be very positive, but the next time you feel down because life has “no meaning” rather celebrate. Celebrate because you can tell the difference between what is real and what is fiction. You can choose your meaning.
Once you get rid of meaning as an inherent property and instead perceive meaning as a personal and emotional connection to a particular aspect of reality. Then you are no longer a slave to it. What you do with your life, what you leave behind, it may have many different meanings to different people. But only one of those meanings has true value: and that’s the one that makes other people’s lives better.
The more you do for others, the more you have something to leave behind that you can be proud of.
The more meaningful your existence becomes.
Humanism. That’s what I think the meaning of life is (for me), or at the very least: what has the most potential to bring value to my life. The meaning of life is to bring meaning to people’s lives. Through a smile, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Even being a good friend or a good boss. It does not have to be so obvious as giving money to the poor (even though that’s totally cool) it can be empathy, being there for your kid, supporting your wife, not kicking someone when they are down. It can be sharing in the joy of Star Trek with a stranger, applauding the actors in a play, saying please and thank you.
When you don’t have to do something out of expectation or fear or damnation then “being good for goodness sake” has far more value. There is value in meaningful interactions because it affects our reality. Treating someone well is no more complicated than one animal treating another animal well, it has practical value, it’s part of reality.
The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts.Charles Darwin
The meaning of life is what you make of it. The meaning of meaning is subjective. But the meaning of bringing value to this world by enriching other people’s lives through their experience of you is measurable. It’s real.