The last time many people took the time to ponder philosophical questions, such as: “What’s the meaning of life?;” “What values do I cherish?;” “What shall I do with my life?” — it’s likely they were with their college buddies, high on pot, contemplating the meaning of life, love, sex, truth, peace and more.
What a luxury it now seems to have the leisure to sit around to ponder the meaning of life. For once you are immersed in the business of life – earning a living, raising a family, maintaining a residence – it’s easy to shy away from reflecting on your philosophy of life. This typically results in feeling empty, alienated and without purpose despite being constantly busy, rushing around doing things.
A philosophy of life is not just for philosophers. It’s for all of us. Knowing what you believe in creates a sense of purpose. It is also a moral compass so that we don’t feel lost when we need to make difficult decisions or deal with trying times.
Traditionally, people turned to religion to provide meaning to their lives. Some still do. But others, despite religion, higher education and wealth, feel little spirituality in their lives. Their deepest questions about why they are here on earth remain unanswered. Often this results in feelings of loneliness, depression and reduced interest in anything except the pleasure of the moment.
“You cannot get enough of what you don’t really need,” declared philosopher Eric Hoffer. But if you don’t really know what you need, you’ve got no choice but to make it up as you go along.
As you make it up, it’s easy simply to accentuate the amorphous concept of “more.” And yet, despite having more “stuff” and more experiences than you ever dreamed of, you may still find yourself feeling alienated from all that you have, all that you do. Clearly ‘more’ is not always better.
So what should you do if you’re not finding much meaning in life? Keep busy, keep active, keep moving, we are told. At times, these suggestions are helpful. Sometimes we are busy enough.
What we really need, we don’t even deem worthwhile — including acceptance, simplicity, solitude and stillness. If you don’t value these qualities, you’ll set aside little or no time for them. Indeed, if you have a quiet day, doing nothing, you may berate yourself for wasting time, instead of feeling pleased that you allowed yourself time for quiet and solitude.
Let’s return full circle to our original questions: “What’s the meaning of life?” “What values do I cherish?” “What shall I do with my life?” I hope you give yourself time to revisit these questions and reflect on your answers. With the wisdom of experience, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to respond to these questions in a more enlightened way.