I can be kind of an angry person.
But here’s the deal – I am tired of trying to pursue a meaningful life. Not because I am angry and depressed and going round and round in my head wondering what the point of it all is – in fact, that’s what my attempts at pursuing a meaningful life often end in: another week or two of bedridden Jessica, diagnosed with a terrible case of introspection overdose.
It makes me want to throw up. And also make my way to that bed over there.
A few moonlit walks later, accompanied by the prescribed literature of Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars, Jessica is again walking the earth, sure in herself that life doesn’t need to have meaning, not the grand kind of meaning that everyone thinks it does anyway.
Then THIS showed up in my inbox: What are the Three Things that Create a Meaningful Life?
Don’t get me wrong. The whole reason it came to my inbox in the first place is I happen to adore Donald Miller. His meaning in life, whether he knows it or not, is writing books that Jessica can easily relate to. Books that talk about how stupid Christianity has become but how there’s still hope for it in the future so after some years of intense moral dilemma he’s decided he’s a Christian, but this new kind where he doesn’t care about what being a Christian means for other people, only what it means for him. That’s the kind of guy I can respect.
I even respect what he says in this article. He’s not talking about finding Ultimate Meaning in being a Great Person who does Amazing Things like saves children in Africa, writes world-changing literature, or especially saves children in Africa and THEN writes world-changing literature about that Amazing Thing. There’s nothing wrong with these people because according this observance, some children in Africa do, in fact, need saving on one level or another, and world-changing literature does, in fact, need to be written because it can’t all be droll stuff we’ve heard a million times before.
So why in the world do I have a problem with this article? Not the article – the message. The general message that we’ve all got to have this thing we already have anyway: Legacy Syndrome.
I discovered it the other day in myself and it’s insanely awful and usually contagious. This time it started with this photo that’s been pinned around on Pinterest:
Great, huh? Just wonderful. Oh, I’ll just rearrange everything in life since the world is actually just a figment of my imagination and/or I am a white male born into an upper middle class family that paid for my education and ensured me lots of connections so that when I wanted to change my life I could just snap my fingers and say, “Ah, that’s much better, I knew that what I really needed to be doing to make money was floating down a river in Belize sipping a Mojito and making fun of crocodiles.”
And then I thought to myself, since when did I need to aim for anything higher or brighter than who I already am, where I already am, etc.? Sure, crap jobs, crap people, and crap living arrangements abound. I happen to lately have found myself pretty O.K. in all of those departments for the time being, mostly just chance honestly. But in this search for higher meaning, to write the Great American Novel or Travel to Africa or Become the Smartest __________ in The World, I ignore what I truly find meaning in, or what I can find meaning in if I haven’t already. I often neglect hanging out with my friends or walking my dog because I seem to have convinced that reading books and writing them will lead to a more refined mind and a better, more purposeful legacy that I leave behind. In a moment where I’m just at work making pizza yet again, I get really down when I convince myself that if what I’m not doing right that second isn’t going towards my Ultimate Legacy Goal then I am doing something WRONG. My constant search for meaning causes me to run from the real meanings of my life towards a mirage of Fulfillment that has never and will never exist, and I will die unhappy with nothing to say for myself except that I never enjoyed anything in life ever.
THAT, my friends, is why I LOATHE feeling like I must find meaning in my life.
Disclaimerish Diplomatic Digression:
– Deciding one’s life is in pursuit of empty things is okay. I’ve had those epiphanies. For instance, realizing I had pretty girl syndrome and all I wanted in life was to hook up with people and write poems about my eternal failure at being a decent person. I examined myself and realized I had managed to become at least slightly depraved. So I backed off, because I knew there was more to life….
– Realizing one’s life is void of what used to fill it. i.e. Before that incident I was a really happy person who was almost excellent at balancing friendships and mind-refining activities such as reading, writing, and looking at clouds. I made the conscious decision to return back to things that made me happy, truly happy, and not empty.
– Planning new invigorations. I guess that isn’t a real word, but anyway, I find it good and practically necessary to decide you’re going to spend the whole day with a good friend and/or good book, or to take that walk rather than being on Facebook or vice-versa if that’s how it needs to be. What I don’t like is making 10-year plans. That’s silly. You don’t know if you’re going to run into somebody on your walk who changes your life forever. Shit happens, so… just don’t plan too hard, it’s a waste of paper, thus saith the obsessive list-maker. Keep your eyes on the big picture if you need to, but don’t let it cause you to lose the trees for the forest.
Lastly, I bring you one of the meanings of my life.
Maybe I’ll make it a weekly thing.