Category Archives: The Meaning of Life

THE MEANING OF LIFE

TREE OF LIFE: “The Ash Yggdrasil” (1886)
by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

For some, their ‘moments’ on this planet are all about leaving their mark, for others it’s the quest for success and yet others simply to be happy. But there are those who have no idea what they are here for and have no desire to find out. For them, life is getting by from waking to sleeping, surviving another day, and for some just another day to stare at the walls or the floor or out of a window where a care-less world just rolls on by.

Of course, we none of us know why we are here, or even if there is a reason. Personally, I’m in the ‘must leave my mark’ camp, yet all three of my adult daughters dismiss this notion as an irrelevance, for them it seems, the only thing they wish for and have any control over is their happiness, and simple happiness is the goal in itself. But theirs is not a happiness dependent on a big house or a fancy car, or climbing some corporate ladder to the top. It’s not even about proven achievement or social acceptance, it’s about being happy in your ‘being’.

None of the three pay much attention to the news, have any political allegiance or socialise to any extent at all. They have opinions of course, and often very strong one’s at that, but these tend to be of a more general nature, their observation of this mad, mad world we live in, born of experiences in their formative years or by some circumstance forced upon them in their quiet lives.

I see it working, they are happy. They walk a lot and talk with each other a lot, but those conversations are far more likely to take place at the top of a hill than in some local pub. Their love for animal-kind far exceeds their desire to mingle much with human-kind. They seem to have found themselves in close harmony with nature far more so than in that of the society that surrounds them – happiness in its simplest manifestation.

But such is not the path for all, it seems. Their mother had much sympathy for their chosen way of life and loved to wander the countryside too. But her happiness had been found in that very motherhood. It satisfied her need, filled her with purpose, made he ‘whole’ in her mind. In the end though, it wasn’t enough. As each of those girls flew the nest, a little of her purpose was gone until finally she began to feel empty, her life’s purpose seemed fulfilled, the need for her very existence slowly becoming the torment of internal conversations.

She occupied herself with the mundane, cleaning the house, washing the car, walking the dog, looking after my needs, but none of it ever amounted to enough and slowly she slipped into a deep depression. Twelve years of such torture later, she could stand it no more and took her own life.

Many times during those years we tried to help her find new purpose. Tried to help her understand that new interests would bring new vitality to her life. We tried to teach her to regard herself as one whole person, rather than half of a couple or one-fifth of a family group. But nothing worked. Not loving family conversations, not medication, not time spent under psychiatric care.

So for me these days, ‘the meaning of life’ has changed. You can’t lose a loving partner of over 40 years and just ‘carry on’. For all my talk of working to be ‘whole’ in ones self, I too felt like half a person when she was gone. I was pushing sixty and with her passing I was looking down a long, seemingly pitch black path that led to nowhere but my grave.

But in the end, my love of life itself, though only the tiniest light in that very dark place, slowly began to flicker. Over the following year I quit my job and began to paint and draw again, something that had been very low on my priority list for longer than I could remember. My daughters encouraged me to build a website for my work and I did.

Then came the day I received an email that was to change my life. A lady five thousand miles away, across the ocean in Texas, wrote to say how much she enjoyed my art and asked permission to show my banner on her MySpace page. I said yes of course and went to see how it looked. My thanks sparked a conversation across the miles. Me venting my grief, she spilling forth parental concerns the like of which I had once been a challenge for me too. Each felt free to let it all out, after all, we had no romantic intentions and besides, we were five thousand miles apart.

Nine months later we met, and were married within the year.

Then I began to write again. A story that had sat on the back burner of my life for over 30 years began to take its final form and is now a published novel and my own meaning of life, is still a work in progress – and I like that.