Of all the things we seek in our lives-- success, love, acceptance, car keys-- one particular item ranks the highest on our most wanted list. No, want is not even close to being the right word... I'm grossly underselling the value of the object in question. This particular aspect of our existence is so unequivocally vital that no phrasing in any method of human expression could ever adequately capture the-
Oh, enough hype already! This blog entry is about one's purpose. It's about your, mine and everyone's role in the grand scheme of things. I speak of course of the ever-sought after cosmic answer: the secret to life.
I'm aware of how bold of a claim this is. I'm sure you're thinking to yourself--and quite logically, might I add-- how could one lowly blogger with little acclaim and no name for himself possibly think he's got the answers? I'm on even terms with you, I'd say... for what difference is there in a man but surroundings he keeps? I bid you only the benefit of my words, so listen and allow my words to serve as their own resume. You see, life's secret is not well kept-- anyone and everyone can figure it out and understand it.
The most common answer a man will give when questioned about life's meaning is that it is dependent on success or happiness (often the two are regarded as synonymous), but I'd say both are only partially true-- far too broad to be accurate answers. What qualifies as happiness and success can mean any manner of things due to the wildly divergent perceptions of the human population. So then, what's my take? What do I find to be the meaning of life? One word: experience.
Wait, what...? Experience? What do I even mean by that? It's nothing complicated, really; in fact, simplicity is the point. Life is about the experiences we undergo and how we allow them to change or shape us. Happiness is but one aspect of the human experience, but to say it is the most important one would be an absolute lie. Without a feeling a frown can we ever truly cherish a smile? Hatred, anger, loss... all these things inevitably enter our lives. To shun and ignore their importance might be the worst mistake anyone can make, as adversity is our greatest ally. Allow me to explain.
Do you enjoy a movie devoid of tension? What about a book with no conflict? To borrow a line uttered by many an actor, without stress or hardship we find ourselves uttering, "What's my motivation?" The imbalance of happiness and stability to danger and uncertainty is the creator of boredom. Experience is all about newness-- we are born with an inherent desire to enrich our experiences and live to the fullest, but we often lose track of what that really means. I'm not telling you to go out and bungee jump from Niagara Falls. Thrill seeking is fine, but it's a temporary high. You need to embrace all aspects of your life, regardless of how trivial or terrible they might seem.
You've heard life is short, but that's advice from people who miss the point. Everything you do is an experience, no matter what it is. No one can tell you what is right or what is wrong but yourself. After all, morality is only a social construct- one that I'd say is best adhered to, but that's a subject I'll tackle at another time. The point I'm trying to drive here is this: it isn't the nature of the experiences themselves, but how you choose to perceive them and the influences you choose to take from them. Not grabbing a souvenir when vacationing abroad is practically a sin, so why would you shirk the mementos, no, the gifts, offered by fate everyday?
You know what makes smart people so smart and cool people so cool? The way they handle their experiences. It seems simple, and it is. Sure, some people may be born more naturally prone to this than others, but that is to be by no means a discouragement! The best thing about being a human-being is that we have no cap on our potential. I truly believe that. Abilities CAN be acquired. The only requirement to attain them is time, which, as it just so happens, you have plenty of. Who's more likely to succeed? A genius who puts forth no effort, or a regular Joe who gives it their absolute all? From personal experience, I'm going to go with the latter. Bear in mind, that's merely an analogy about capability. Driving for success, like I said before, is NOT the secret to life.
It's true that positive outcomes are the ones we naturally shoot for. That mentality is healthy and it will do wonders for motivation... but it also can be incredibly destructive and become perverted into reason for depression. Why is that? How can success be so fickle? Why can't life be just kind all the time? Perhaps it is. Negative experiences may very well be positive ones. Spoiler alert: they always are. This is where perception comes back into to play. The handling of one's experiences matter more than the experience itself. I'm well aware of the gap between the ease of saying and actually doing, so I'll personally guide you to that conclusion.
Let me show what I mean by starting with a slight diversion... and let me also thank you for reading this far because I'm aware this is a particularly long winded entry.
The best way to understand the value of hardship is to realize the importance of the hardest one of all: death. Just as the old ways impede progress, old life must be cleared away so that new life can flourish and create a better world for more new life. And yet, despite all the sense that a Darwinistic take on death makes, it does little to ease the pain of losing a parent, friend or worst of all... a child. The relationship between cold logic and poignant emotion is the same as that of Clark Kent and Superman: they cannot exist in the same place at the same time. After you allow yourself to grieve properly, we turn to their deaths as a source of strength. Death reminds us better than anything of the value own lives have. What value? The importance of life itself and the beauty of its paradoxical nature.
Someday in the future, no matter how near or far in, you too will die... and it will be beautiful. Why? Because your importance of your existence will culminate and explode in a shower of respectful tears. No matter what you did in life or how you handled your experiences, there will be people that will acknowledge what you've done and how you've touched their lives just by sharing their cosmic experiences with you. Heck, some of those people likely won't even exist if not for you! Our entire world is spinning on a potter's wheel, constantly be carved and guided into a new, progressively more wonderful shape and your mark, your experiences, are an integral part of that wondrous and immortal process.
When you are dead, that change outlives you. Success isn't the founding of a multi-million dollar industry. It's the smile or warm word you gave to someone that made their day that one time. It's the choices you made. It's the simple, perhaps even automatic, decision you made to go to work and listen to your co-worker complain about her husband's drinking habits. It's the shoulder you provided for your crying sister, or the seemingly meaningless advice you gave her about boys. It's the cover story you provided for your best friend when he broke curfew to attend a party. You never know what an experience will bring, even if it seems bad at first. When you got caught smoking a joint, maybe it showed your parents just how much they loved you and where their real priorities were. While you were crying in your room about unfair they were, maybe your mom was crying in hers... just happy that you were still alive.
Experiences happen every day, as well as every second and minute of that day. The secret of life is understanding that those experiences overlap with those of others, and that every single one, no matter how small or painful, is a blessing waiting to be realized. Every breath you breathe is a chance to try something new, or enjoy something old another time. Life is made worth living simply out of the nature of its existence. A billionaire and an impoverished mother of five die in the same dirt, but it's never set in stone which one dies with a smile. Knowing you touched someone's life and realizing you've succeeded just by existing is all you ever need. Your purpose is defined by how you allow yourself to be defined.
Zooming out and looking at the grander scale and seeing the insignificance problems have at the end will give you clarity. A failed test, career or marriage may seem like the end... but you are still alive. Breathing, sweating, loving, laughing, crying... it'll all happen again. As long as you live, you have a purpose and reason to live. Experience whatever life offers and perceive it in the best way you possibly can. Always remember... no experience can ever be wasted or handled incorrectly. If you ever need a second chance, all you need to do is wake up the next day. Problems create appreciation, and appreciation allows us the cherish life and understand the value.
Experience life and you've already won the battle, because the secreting knowing that you the terms of victory. It's like realizing that you are only in a dream and you can control what happens. That's all it is. The only way life is different than a dream is that people think life has to make sense.
So now that you too know the secret to life...
... never forget it.