We are all born with a universal burden to carry deep within us. The exact application of its weight upon your soul depends on your way of thinking; if you have truly decided how and what to think for yourself with a constant objective investigation of your internal and external influences, the burden of finding your personal meaning is significantly altered. On the contrary, if one never steps outside of one's own mental prison built up from tribalism, society and worrying about what others think, this burden becomes ultimately too heavy to carry. This leads to a life littered with regrets, tempers, and sadness at the unfairness of it 'all' as if 'all' can be quantified precisely and exactly by man in some coherently agreed upon manner. Nevertheless, if one ponders this personal search for meaning with an understanding that it is completely and utterly personal in every sense, it can be reinvented into an ultimate freedom. The freedom to focus on the things that really matter for you; not for your parents, not for your colleagues, not for the small box society has placed you within for ease of classification. There is no responsibility to live up to what other people expect of you, the responsibility only lies with yourself.
In this vein, we can discuss the struggle for finding the meaning of doing anything at all. This question has plagued many, I'm sure, but once again their answers are only their answers. Our answers have to come to fruition through our own reflection and our own contemplation, with the help of these thinkers as kindle for these ravenous personal fires.
Here is an example of my own recent contemplation:
Through my being, I can see nature has gone through great pains to allow for something rather than nothing; what is more, something thrives divinely beautifully. Life is a fight against entropy, with equilibrium and heat death being an inevitable result; there is no opting out or in of this battle. This is a fight I have been fighting since my first breath and I will continue to fight it, whether I like it or not, until my last. This fight can be used for the ultimate good, creating something that continues to help long after I am gone. This could be anything: an invention, a step forward in a scientific field, a book, a philosophy, or family and descendants. If I do not use the fight towards good, but towards nothing in spite at man's meagerness or even towards malice in caprice at existence, I will have squandered the chance given to me by the fates, by the logos, by the biological fight against entropy. One day, I will die, and sooner than I would like. Living a life full of regret and squandering it with a relentless lack of focus would lead to life's only event horizon being truly dreadful; the point with no possibility of return as you relinquish the mortal coil. The sadness of that final moment, with no possibility of changing the time past, is too overbearing to describe in words; and yet once again, we can choose to see this sadness differently. We have the chance right now, to change our ways no matter our past and decide to pursue a deep life, a life of focus and courage. The platitude 'It is never too late' is one of humanity's deepest favours from Chronos, I dread to think how we shall ever repay it.
Some vital questions now arise, what really is important and what really does matter? What matters for me? What part of daily existence can be discarded as detritus coagulating around the fetters of society? I have mentioned the word 'help' in the previous paragraph. That seems a better place than any to start. What is help and why does it matter? I feel a 'who created God?' paradox rattling down the proverbial highway towards us and so my answer has to sojourn at some pragmatic rest stop with a nice view: Why help? Simply put, because if you have it in your power to alleviate other's suffering without much toil on your part, and you do not – you can hold yourself implicit to their suffering. Helping others helps everyone prosper and for everyone to live their only life with as much contentment as they possibly can; the more people I can help avoid the fate I so viscerally described earlier, the greater personal good I can ascribe on my actions as a whole.
Where does one go from here? It seems to me that finding out what matters balances between reflection and experimentation. With experimentation, one can find out what matters by actually attempting it in the first place. With reflection, once can think about the things experimented upon and decide truly for themselves if they matter or if they don't.
Cal Newport has a system of life 'pots' that I think form a very sound basis for anyone:
- Contemplation, (reflection and matters of the soul)
- Constitution, (health)
- Community, (friends, family, societies etc. )
- Craft (work and quality leisure)
As an extra under craft I would add for myself:
- Communication (reading, writing, oral, language)
It's hard to disagree with these points, I've yet to convince myself that any of these are less important than the others or that they individually are not vital, they do really seem to cover everything of true value without any stragglers. The next step is to consider what these categories mean for our day-to-day lives and how one can move towards living a life with constant reminder and constant appreciation of these meaningful outlets to inevitably walk a path towards one of contentment and a real sense of (perhaps fleeting) peace.