I found a new candidate for ‘the meaning of life’.
Ok, I’m going to open up here. Be vulnerable. Admit something I don’t often admit:
I don’t know what the meaning of life is.
No, I’m serious. I really don’t. I don’t know why we’re here. I don’t know what it’s all about. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing.
There was a time when that didn’t matter. When I was in survival mode – running my own business, small kids in tow, falling asleep on the couch each night – I just didn’t care.
I wasn’t concerned about ‘actualising my potential’. I was only interested in actualising some dinner and getting a proper night’s sleep.
Nothing kills your curiosity in the greater mysteries of life like overdue bills and dirty nappies.
But now, well now I do have the space to ponder the bigger questions. I find my thoughts go there quite regularly actually.
There is a ‘lifting of the gaze’ that happens when you become truly financially secure. I genuinely wish that you get to experience it for yourself soon, if you haven’t already.
But the more I peer into the mystery, the more I think it’s just not something I’m meant to understand. Like, I just don’t have the hardware required to really process it.
Perhaps grateful bewilderment is the best that any human can hope for.
That said, it does help to have some sense of what life is all about. We all need something to navigate by. Otherwise, how do we know if we’re on the right track or not?
And so, over the years, we’ve become quite good at coming up with short-hands to put on life’s sign-posts. “Do unto others and you would do unto yourself.” “Love others and serve God.” “Follow your bliss.” “Work hard and be good to your mother.”
And there’s one short-hand I came across the other day that really struck a chord with me. It’s from American author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love):
“The Universe buries strange jewels deep within us, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
There’s a few things I like about this. The first is the reference to ‘strange jewels’. I like that we’re not saying it’s a diamond or anything specific. And from that I take it that everyone has something different inside them. Everyone’s challenge here is different.
Your quest is totally unique to you.
I feel that.
I also like the idea that they are buried deep within us. They’re not something you just kick over one day on your way to the bus stop.
To find them, you’ve got to commit to the deep work – to challenging yourself, to pushing your boundaries, to being constantly curious in who you are and where your opportunities for growth can be found.
Life’s jewels are only available to those people who are willing to ‘go deep’.
And finally, I like how she says that this is the meaning of life. It’s a game you’re playing with the universe. The jewels are hidden inside you. Your job, your challenge, is to go and find them.
For me, I like how this keeps me focused on the process, not the results.
When I commit myself to a task these days, I want to succeed, I really do. I’m not mucking about.
But I know the real return is not in anything I can create in the world, but in what I uncover in myself. What ‘strange jewels” I can find.
So I like it.
Obviously it’s not the full picture. I’m not sure any mere mortal will ever get their head around that.
But still, sometimes it is useful to have something you can fall back on when you lose your way.