When considering the impermanency of our lives, the lives of our loved ones, the lives of our farthest descendants—in short, the entire world as we know it—what could it possibly mean to have a meaningful life? It’s a heavy question, one often undertaken to unsatisfactory conclusions. I won’t claim that mine will be any better.
The meaning of life is obviously something that many people search for futilely. However, others, not lacking it, never feel the need to search for it.
What is the real indicator of a meaningful life? How can you tell if yours is meaningful? I would dare to say, as so many have before (and probably this is complete regurgitation from half forgotten philosophical history and oversimplification of the general spirit of much of literature), that a meaningful existence is simply a happy one.
So what makes existence happy? Some have proposed complete sensual indulgence, but I think for the most part nowadays this has been roundly rejected, with perhaps a few stalwarts who insist on its supremacy. Instead it seems to rest on the ability to identify what one should do and to live life with the goal of bringing this about.
But of course, it seems impossible that there could be any one specific thing that should be done more than any other thing should be done. For society to continue as it does, there are some people who must bake bread, others who must heal, others to make music, and still others to drive taxis, make the taxis, sail the ships that export the taxis throughout the world, make the ships that carry the taxis, design the ships, acquire the materials to build the ships, find the materials, etc., etc., ad nauseum. So to sit here and ponder what should be done is not a fruitful way to find it. There is no one thing that should be done more than another; all need to be done and all need people to do them.
If we again turn our faces towards the blinding fact of impermanence, none of these things will be important after time has ceased. Physical ability fades and ends. Mental ability fades and ends. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t exercise our bodies or minds. Even culture, popular and elite, constantly changes and evolves, so no contribution to it can be permanent or definitive. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play and listen to music, or write and read books, or make and watch films. Neither are governments nor institutions immune from this impermanence; even the most glorious and long-lived have come to an end.
So if these things that we do ultimately result in nothing how can any of them really be that one specific thing that one person should do? Thus the absurdity of the following equation is obvious: Since the world is moving towards X and I possess talents A & B and qualities C & D, I should do E & F in order to help bring X about. Having accomplished E & F, I am happy to have done what I should have done.
Instead, what is needed seems to be the abandonment of this question “What should I do?” and thus also the abandonment of the link between happiness and what should be done. (This also breaks the link between a meaningful existence and what should be done.)
Happiness, therefore, is not dependent on a reflective, intellectual process or rational identification of what should be done. Instead it depends on identifying what one likes or enjoys, and then doing it. Simple. Reading, writing, watching TV, spending time with others, doing community service, entertaining others, drinking coffee, running, dancing, eating good food, shopping, gardening, healing, writing laws, enforcing laws, making money, spending money, learning languages, learning in general, doing what other people want you to do, endlessly searching for what should be done, writing blogs in France while boring people with pseudo-intellectualism and pseudo-philosophy—all contribute to the building up of a meaningful existence as long as they are activities that one enjoys.
If you don’t enjoy it, the answer is simple: Stop it! (Unless of course what you truly enjoy is complaining about having to do things that you don’t enjoy.)
I could keep going because I think there is more that can be extrapolated from this, but my ideas on these extrapolations are still not fully coherent (hard to believe: I know!), so I will spare you the rest for some other time.
*DISCLAIMER: This post exceeded the 30-minute time-limit. So sue me.