Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Meaning of Life

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”  -Alan Watts

A friend posted this quote this morning and it tracks perfectly with where I have been at the past few years.  In the religious circles in which I traveled earlier in life, there was great emphasis on "living a life of meaning" and finding your "purpose".  I suppose that doesn't sound bad on the surface, maybe even noble, but what I discovered over time was that it was like, as the book of Ecclesiastes says, "chasing after the wind and feeding on it".  It was never-ending and never satisfying.  It keeps you running on a hamster wheel.

In recent years, I have been learning to let go of the rushing... saying no to the panic.

In the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect saves his friend Arthur from the destruction of the Earth.  When Arthur realizes he can't go back, he asks, "What do I do now?"  Ford shrugs, "You come with me and enjoy yourself."  Ford's suggestion has become my life tagline.

In an episode of Rick and Morty, Rick gives the family a device that allows them to see themselves in other universes - lives in which they had made different choices.  They grow depressed and angry as they see how their lives could have been "better" had they chosen different paths.  Rick tells them they would have been happier watching TV with him and Morty and that they, "clearly backed the wrong conceptual horse."  Later, Morty's sister is going to run away due to her frustration.  Morty gives an explanation of why she should stay and ends it with, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, and everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”

For myself, I have spent enough time on the hamster wheel chasing after things and never arriving.  I think Watts had it right.  My time is better spent creating, enjoying, and breathing.  There are good conversations to be had, meals to enjoy, stories to listen to, and walks to take.

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