What is the Meaning in Life… She Asked
“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”
― Danny Kaye
What is the meaning IN life?
The IN rather than the OF?
What does that mean?
Do you know what it means?
Do you know the meaning… IN or OF or both or neither… whatever… life?
Life… what it mean, what meaning?
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
― Joseph Campbell
When I was about fourteen I made a pact with myself – If I make it to sixteen, then I won’t kill myself.
Wait… maybe it was – Don’t kill yourself until you’re sixteen. If you still want to do it then…
Memory… sometimes so clear and sometimes so unclear. Which is which?
I can’t recall what it was exactly… it was a dramatic time, a dramatic age, a dramatic coming of age…
I remember spending a lot of time on this… goal. Investing much thought and feeling into it. Working it out, fleshing out the details of the contract. Writing it in the blood of emotion. It meant a great deal to me then. It was a lifeline during a very turbulent time.
But I’m not really sure what it means. Looking at it from this distance (I’m in my 40’s now) it seems rather bizarre. Perhaps because I’m not there, and have no idea what meaning being there had for me then… it’s all a blur, with points of clarity, but the clarity is unclear.
“She can paint a pretty picture but this story has a twist. The paintbrush is a razor and the canvas is her wrist.”
― Amy Efaw
I think that it may have been my answer at that time to that age old question – What is the meaning of life?
Or at least my solution to the problem which that question posed. Or the puzzles caused by the variations of that question which are a part of life, of human life. Especially at certain moments where we cross particular thresholds.
Up until that point I didn’t think about life having a meaning, I just lived it as it happened, flowed with its currents. But something changed, and suddenly I needed life to mean something. I needed my life to mean something. I needed a reason to keep going. I needed meaning…
The something which changed was internal. Life on the outside of me was always changing, it had always been changing. I never had stability or an anchor for my dinghy, I was constantly being tossed about, thrown from wave to wave, shipwrecked on one shore or another, never staying long enough anywhere to settle down, find a place to call home, let roots grow and nourish the plant.
In some ways I was that proverbial carrot whose farmer keeps pulling it up to see if it’s growing.
“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
From that moment on finding meaning became of paramount importance. Discovering the meaning of life, my life, became an obsession which would take me on many a strange journey through lands foreign, though not completely so, of thought, emotion, ideas, ideals, fantasy, delusion, illusion, far and away. Mind, body, spirit, soul seeking… searching for cohesion, union, comprehension, understanding… meaning.
I got very lost along the way, but I was lost before I started, so it was just more of the same old rigmarole… with different colours and patterns… or so it seemed.
It took me a long time to figure out that what seemed different… wasn’t so different. Variations of a familiar theme.
When it finally dawned on me that I was repeating a pattern I had learned from day one… it made everything pointless.
What’s the point? What’s the point of it all!
That’s been a bit of a mantra for me throughout my life. I get caught up in things, in doing, exploring, experimenting, seeking and… then I get to a place where what I’m doing doesn’t make any sense.
Does this make sense? – that’s also a mantra of sorts, one I say to others after I’ve babbled a bit.
The babbling, rambling, and whatnot…
It all reeks of bullshit… or paint. A fresh paint job over a blank canvas. Doesn’t matter what picture you paint on it, the canvas will always be blank underneath.
“The canvas isn’t empty. It’s full of whatever you imagine it to be full of. My art is so conceptual that not only do I not tell, but I don’t even show. All I do is sign the canvas and try to sell it.”
― Jarod Kintz
However that blank canvas is made of many threads woven together, and within the fibres there is something… a theory of life, that which caused life to happen. And there is some sort of glue, some substance which sustains it. Otherwise it would all fall apart, unravel…
I often unravel… come unstuck, unglued… but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to matter. Matter always adapts, takes on a new shape, reforms.
I think I’m at my happiest when things fall apart. I’m at home at in the chaos. It’s when I find my centre, my core. All the extraneous stuff falls away, and I am as I am. What’s left when I fall apart is me. Naked, clothed only in nature.
“A blank canvas…has unlimited possibilities.”
― Stephanie Perkins
It’s a bit like that snowball which rolls down a hill, gathering more and more snow, until it is huge, pushed and pulled by momentum, thundering down towards some village filled with life, threatening to wipe it out… but then it hits a tree which stands strong, and the giant ball explodes… particles of snow dust fan out… leaving only the original snowball. And the snowball finds itself.
That’s life, and the meaning of it. To go through experiences, gather bits and pieces along the way, roll along, pushed and pulled, momentum increasing until you’re out of control trying to stay in control, then… BAM!… you hit something, explode, and find what’s left when the chaos and mess dust clears.
What a feeling! To be free of all the gumph! To be… to just be! As is, no accessories required… because it’s all gone to shit hitting fan!
“If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.”
― Rick Riordan
One of the things which perhaps added to my sense of desolation, desperation, and philosophical leanings when I was fourteen was… what everyone else seemed to be doing. Everyone else seemed to have a meaning for their lives. Whether they did or not… it’s all often about perception. The grass is always greener… where you’re not pissing all over it.
They were brought up to follow convention, to plan their lives out, figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. This began early on for them, building upon that question which adults ask children – What are you going to be when you grow up? – and those adults don’t stop at the question, they nurture… push and pull… those children until a form is found.
Whether that form fits… that’s often a matter for a mid-life crisis to ask and answer.
No one asked me that question other than as a formality – the answer to which they couldn’t have cared less about. You could answer anything, it didn’t matter because they weren’t interested in who you were, were going to be or wanted to be… what they wanted to do was tell all about who they were, were going to be and were busy being.
And who they were often involved telling you how awful your choices were or you were… not because your choices or you were awful but because they needed to impress you with their choices, themselves, and stuff.
So you gave them the impressed routine and that made them happy (for about five seconds, but that’s pretty good as fleeting happiness goes).
“I’m killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.”
― Bill Watterson
When I turned sixteen, I made a new pact with myself, but it’s not one which I recall. What I do remember was a goal about getting to the next corner, because just around the corner life would reveal itself to me in some way…
It’s funny how elusive corners can be, and so hard to turn.
“Things aren’t quite as they seem inside my domain
You can’t know about everything
only pleasure and pain.
You wonder why I come here with head to my hands
Just around the corner
half a mile to heaven…”
– Cock Robin, Just Around the Corner
For all this thinking about meaning… I’ve lost my way and not done what I said I was going to do in the previous post in this series – feeling.
That’s a thing with me, one you’ve probably noticed if you’ve spent time on this blog observing my goings on.
I’m still going with the flow… and sometimes it flows away from where I intended to go. I’ll get there eventually… or not.