Why are the Chicago Cubs so meaningful that they can bring a 90 year-old man to tears when they win the World Series, yet so meaningless to a neighbour in the adjacent house? Why is bringing awareness to one’s community of some social issue the life-calling for one individual, yet may be completely irrelevant to the person they are preaching to?
If you haven’t thought about this, then be prepared to get a little uncomfortable.
Arguably, the deepest question we ponder throughout our lives pertains to the meaning of life. And even more fascinating, is that it is seemingly ubiquitously pondered throughout the world without exception.
Naturally, we are afraid of unknowns and we don’t like our knowns to be challenged, so we subconsciously put meaning in different things and don’t spend much time thinking about why. For Grandpa it may be baseball, for Susan it may be feminism, and for you it’s probably something completely different.
So what is meaningful? What is meaningless? Is it all equally meaningful and meaningless?
I raise these points for a couple of reasons.
- All too frequently I see people talk down of how other people choose to find meaning
- All too frequently I see people get depressed because they put a lot of meaning into something that didn’t turn out how they had hoped
Forgive me for getting too deep here (although if you’re on a blog titled “The Pensives” then you’re asking for it haha), but in the end we’re all going to end up in a grave. If one looks at it from that perspective, everything is equally meaningless (and meaningful) because it all comes to an end at some point. Once this is established, we will not feel a superiority over others just because they may find meaning in something completely different from us, and if we realize that, then there will be a lot less judgment of those around us whose lives are not organized identically to ours.
Does it make sense to everybody that the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series was the best day of many people’s lives? Of course not – but if it was the best day of your life, then kudos to you because you have figured out a key to happiness that 99.9% of people are still searching for.
If people look at those two points I raised above and think about them seriously, I think the world will be a much better place (but of course, who am I to say what a good world should look like?).
It will allow us to empathize with those who are passionate about things that we don’t understand so we can communicate in a way that won’t sound condescending when discussing those things. It will also prevent us from getting too depressed about the outcome of something, because if we have enough self-security to acknowledge that meaning is just something we prescribe ourselves, then we can recalibrate in that moment and realize that the only reason we feel bad is because we chose to do so.
I’m not saying that all sorrow and suffering should be avoided (in fact, I tend to believe the contrary), but I am saying that if feelings are becoming destructive, then breaking your belief system down and building it back up again can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
No one’s meaning is more important than someone else’s. Never question what you have picked and try not to question what others have picked. THEN, perhaps, we can be one step closer to speaking the same language when discussing values and priorities with our peers, which I think we can all agree is a desirable outcome for everyone.