At some stage in your life, you will be struck by both the beauty and absurdity of the situation you find yourself in.
You will realise that you have been born onto a moist, spherical rock, orbiting around a giant burning ball of fire, in a tiny part of a galaxy that is one of at least two trillion in the observable universe – a number that you can never fully grasp or imagine.
You eventually learns that, not only do your parents not know everything, but that no one does. Despite the great, sweeping claims of numerous religions and ideologies, and the advances of science, none of the other people on this floating ball, suspended in the vast darkness of space, really know what’s going on. Closer examination of you situation reveals that there appears to be no inherent meaning to your existence here, or anyone’s for that matter. There is seemingly no One True Meaning, unquestionable Holy Book, or any universally agreed on principles or ways of acting in the world.
What you do know is that there have been many other people who were born, lived and died on this planet. Despite the apparent lack of meaning, these billions of people who came before you have created majestic works of art, split the atom, put a phone in everyone’s pocket and connected them via the internet, subdued the other animals on the planet, and created some semblance of peace and order in an otherwise chaotic universe. Going back further, you learns that our species evolved from single-celled organisms, to multi-cellular ones, to lizards, to mammals, to monkeys, to humans, over billions of years. It was only 5,200 years ago that writing was invented, and 140 years since the electric lightbulb was invented.
What does a person do in light of these facts?
It is up to you to decide. That is the beauty of the lack of one unifying meaning for all men and women on the planet – you get to choose your own meaning, principles, and goals. But this can be disconcerting and scary; how does one even begin to find their own meaning in a universe with no inherent meaning?
History shows us that most people enjoy adversity and challenge. What else would cause someone to spend tens of thousands of hours perfecting the ability to out-box another person, put a football in precisely the right spot in the back of a net, leave the planet entirely to walk the moon, create breath-taking music for others to listen to, or any other of the vast multitude of incredible feats and accomplishments that humans have achieved in the past?
I believe that the best way to achieve happiness, peace and contentment, is to become an effective, balanced, purposeful person. What I mean by this is that you improve yourself, day by day, in order to be able to effectively live a satisfying life and to succeed in hitting the goals you set out for yourself. You become a person who gives back to humanity and to the planet, giving more than you take. Everyone has a specific idea of what success is to them. Some want to raise a family, some don’t. Some want to master their bodies in pursuit of a physical activity or sport, and others hone their minds in order to master the sciences and arts. Achieving any of these, however, requires you to be an effective, balanced person, one who
- Can focus on one task for a long period of time, without succumbing to the whims of their mind, and sees the world clearly, without bias. This is accomplished through meditation which allows you to sharpen your mind, and by having a healthy mental state.
- Can get the right amount of sleep each night, design their mornings to maximise the rest of their day, and repeat a set of activities that ensure productivity until they retire to bed, no matter what their day throws at them. This is accomplished through routine & discipline.
- Can keep their body functioning well, their muscles strong, & their reflexes sharp, supporting a healthy body as well as mind. This is accomplished through physical exercise & a healthy diet.
- Can separate true from false, learn new skills, separate right from wrong, & good from evil. This is accomplished through a grasp of general knowledge, logic, and philosophy.
- Has a reason to do all of the above – a purpose higher than oneself, a reason to get out of bed, power that drives the will to act.
If you can do this while building your own personal philosophy, your own reason for being, while not harming others and helping them where possible, that will give you meaning and purpose. Maybe not the same meaning and purpose as everyone else, but if it helps you to enjoy your time here and give back to the planet, then go for it.
One of my goals is to provided a map to self-actualisation; a state where you become the best person that you, as a unique individual, can be. A person who first improves themselves, then their friends, their family, their community, their species, and their planet. This is something I aim to do in my workshop, The Clarity Workshop.