I read once that there is a meaning of life.
It’s hard to believe that it could be so simple, since it seems like everyone is asking around for one all the time. To have it be a flippant “Oh, yeah. Yeah,” just seems surprising. But the book suggests that not only is there a meaning of life, but that each of us already knows exactly what it is – that we have known what it is since before we were born.
I should say something sarcastic here. Make some off-handed joke about the really impressive work Entenmann’s does with a chocolate covered doughnut and how those just might be “the meaning of life,” or perhaps its related to the number of licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop. But for some reason I just can’t. Or okay, I just did. But I didn’t mean it.
Of course, there are just too many arguments against such a ridiculous suggestion, how could even the most gullible among us figure it for any kind of truth? And yet the book has sold like hot cakes. People want to believe.
The book continues its preposterous (yet surprisingly soothing) consolation of us poor and mortal beings. It says, we even choose how long we want to be here on this earth before we arrive on it. It says that for those who believe it is senseless for a child to spend only a single day in his mother’s arms before he dies, they are wrong. Rather, that he actually came and achieved his life’s meaning in exactly that 24-hour span of time. That, though sad for the mother, for the baby, that death was not senseless, but rife with meaning.
I imagine the book would say the same is true for the children shot at Sandy Hook or that 23-year-old cancer victim who was cryogenically frozen, so desperate was her hope for living. There is sadness, says the book, but no senselessness. Because the life’s meaning for all has been fulfilled. They knew how long it would take them even before they were born. And they achieved their meaning of life in the timeline they chose.
It is fated – finding the meaning of life – the book goes on to say. There is very little you can do about it. It comes to you. Or you go to it. If it has to come to you, it will fight to get to you, rendering you anxious, embarrassed, guilted or otherwise sequestered in a Woody Allen movie.
If, on the other hand, you decide to go it, you don’t have to worry about getting lost. Because you were given a map, or more like a GPS in the form of emotions. Taking sad and happy out of the equation, finding your life’s meaning is about moving toward peace, love and satisfaction. Any experiences that feel rich or fulfilling are barometers for moving-in-the-right-direction. Anxiety, and other forms of neurosis, are you getting colder.
But if you set your course toward beauty and turn right at gratification, it is there. It’s like Peter Pan meets The Secret meets Oprah’s Church of Really Good Book Clubs.
I don’t know if it’s true. I just about read it. But like everyone, I want there to be a meaning of life. I want there to be a reason that babies die and people struggle. I want that certainty because so much feels so uncertain.
I want to believe that there is something bigger. I don’t mean God but if you need to give it a shape you can use it. I don’t mean Universe but if you need to give it a breadth of space than you can. And if there is a meaning of life, well then, that would be okay, because it would mean I will be okay, it means we are all okay.
I guess that’s why we look and grapple and hope and pray. I guess that’s why we put one foot in front of the other in spite of hopelessness, senselessness and misery. Because we are on a quest for that meaning of life that we are here to remember, uncover and learn.