Thursday, February 26, 2009
It's a basic human desire - meaning. We want to know our life counts. "We humans are creatures who spend our lives trying to convince ourselves that our existence is not absurd" - Albert Camus. People talk about finding meaning in different places - work, family, church. We derive meaning from service. We certainly know we don't want the opposite - meaninglessness. I know when I have a sense of meaning in my life - it moves my soul. But what is meaning? Where does it come from?
I am from a Christian tradition. It offers an answer to the question: meaning is derived from a) an understanding that we have been created by a loving God, and b) through the Bible we have a guide on how to build further meaning through a personal relationship with Him.
The trouble is, my life experience challenges those ideas. I can't rest easy in those answers anymore. Frankly, the common language of faith makes less and less sense to me as my days go on.
Yet still I seek, I pursue, I yearn, and I do find meaning, deep meaning in my life and for my life. I have a very difficult time articulating it. Is it God? If so, he is manifest for me in the 'spaces in between': art, poetry, music, film, theatre, conversation, affection, nature, relationship, love - those times I feel 'fully human and fully alive'.
I don't think that meaning is the end but rather the means. My experience is that meaning fuels my life, it pushes me out the door to engage, to wonder, to try, to risk. Meaning makes me more curious. Meaning is what encourages me to be generous and give of myself.
The source of meaning may be singular or it may be plural - I don't know.
Is meaning my sense of purpose? Is it my reason for being? Is it my understanding of my own humanity and that of those around me? Is meaning me being awake to the world? I think it's all that, and probably more. Reading over this, maybe other words could be put in the place of meaning - but that word works for me. Defining what meaning is, and where it comes from, is often very elusive for me. But I do know, when it happens, it moves my soul.