Finding a new meaning

It’s a great big universe
And we’re all really puny
We’re just tiny little specks
About the size of Mickey Rooney
— Animaniacs, Yakko’s Universe

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably played existential games with yourself before. I often wonder why it is that I am here.

This game is an simple one for religious people to play and win — they are here because God put them here and gave them a unique purpose. (The Westminster Shorter Catechism reads, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”) Furthermore, these people often look forward to some sort of afterlife that they will enjoy but that is not afforded to everyone. They feel a sense of privilege at that.

Some people find meaning in their children…they have a biological drive to love their children and ensure (to the best of their ability) that these children are healthy and successful. I am a son after all, and my parents have expressed their desires about this to me. I realize that not all parents actually have this motivation, and their children often end up as damaged adults. I have met adults like this throughout my life, and I sympathize with them for the difficult road they have traveled.

In my case, I don’t really believe in God and I don’t have any children. And, contrary to what some have suggested, I don’t see the answer as merely changing course on either of these issues. These are important choices I have made for how I wish to live my life, and I hope people will respect that. Some do, some don’t.

So what is left for me to find meaning in? I have always measured myself based on what I have accomplished and contributed to the world in this life. Unfortunately, my level of accomplishment has not reached anything near the heights that I would have hoped. I wanted to be Superman, but I’m not even Clark Kent yet. As I approach yet another birthday, I cannot help but be reminded about how short I have fallen of my goals.

I am told by some expert people that this line of thinking is a trap. I am inclined to believe them since it does not lead to positive feelings. My fulfillment is contingent on measurable external factors, and when I don’t measure up, I cease to be fulfilled.

So it’s time to carve out a new path. I’m not sure what that even looks like. I know it does not look like the paths that most other people have charted. It’s about the relationships that I have with people. It’s about doing good in small ways. It’s about living the best life I can each day, not where I fall on some 10-year plan.

This is not an easy path to take. It requires intense focus. It requires a commitment not to think too far out in front of my headlights. It’s about living life in the present. We’ll see how it works.

Putting all of my time in learning to care

Putting all of my time
In learning to care
And a bucket of rhymes
I threw up somewhere
Want a locket of who
Made me lose my perfunctory view
Of all that is around
And of all that I do

Rufus Wainwright, “I Don’t Know What It Is”

Lately I have been putting all of my time in learning to care about my deeper desires for life. Away from work. Away from distractions as much as possible. Just like when you listen to another person, you want to be able to focus, you have to work immensely harder to listen to what it is you are saying to yourself. This is not the mark of insanity — we all have our own little voice inside. It’s part of human nature.

Recently I caused myself a tremendous amount of pain by (figuratively) yelling at that little voice. Of course, I had my reasons. After all, the voice was distracting me. It was sabotaging me. It seemed like I was blindsided by one thing after another in life, and you cannot bob and weave when you don’t even know what it is you’re dodging. My response was to turn into a disciplinarian…after all, inner children are to be neither seen nor heard.

Thanks to some caring people in my life, I learned that yelling at the voice to be quiet was not productive. It only made things worse. I was more distracted. Instead, I had to sit back and listen to it. I had to care about it. What was it telling me?

Unfortunately that little voice does not typically use words, so it can be very hard to interpret. It’s sort of like figuring out why a baby is crying. The baby cannot tell you in words, so you have to use a process of elimination. Does its diaper need to be changed? Is it hungry? Does it just want to be picked up and held?

Just as some parents intuitively know what their child wants, some people are in touch with themselves to a degree of pinpointing their deepest desires in an instant. They act on their gut feelings, and they usually get their needs met. Anyone who knows me well will agree that I am not one of those intuitive people…and, in fact, all of this seemed like hippie psychobabble to me at first.

So I am putting in some time now. Everything is on the table. There are no sacred cows in my life.

I really have never made time for this process before. I always had to get on to the next challenge or the next paycheck. I never took a moment to breathe. The irony of this is that not committing to my deep desires has been quite costly to me over time. Repress that little voice for long enough, and it starts acting out.

So…maybe I need a locket with a mirror so I can see exactly “who made me lose my perfunctory view.”