We are driven by a messy package of patched-together preferences: tastes (for a certain type of people, a certain type of things, food, etc.), interests (which can morph into passions), habits, beliefs, ideologies,… each of those bears a different weight depending on our personality and education.
Some are contradictory. Some are age-dependent. Some aspirations turn into broken dreams, others remain well-assumed fantasies or convenient fictions.
To find Meaning in this confusing mess of primal and cultural triggers, we need to take a step back and transcend our little ego.
If Happiness usually deals with how we feel now, in the moment, Meaning is about how we feel as a whole, on the scale of our life.
The meaning we give to our existence isn’t written in stone, it can evolve significantly depending on the context, the opportunities, the relationships.
Rather than chasing a Meaning Of Life, we’d rather try to develop a Meaning In Life. It’s a creative way to reconcile instant gratification and long term impact.
There’s one thing which seems to give an absolute meaning to the life of those who choose to pursue the parenting path: having descendants.
Even more importantly, giving birth to a child seems to indicate some hope for the future.
It wasn’t always like that. In the past, people had more children because they were afraid of the future, not hopeful. It was a way of maximising their chance of survival.
Today, when we deliberately choose to add another individual to the earth population, it can be interpreted as a sign that we believe that the world is still worth it, despite all the current issues and the challenges ahead.
Raising a child is a leap of faith which embodies our hope in a brighter future.
When we’re talking about Meaning, we tend to consider our grand role in something bigger.
We want to understand how we fit into the universal narrative. It can either lead us on an altruistic path or, on the contrary, reinforce our ego, boosted by a sense of importance.
Valuing your contribution shouldn't be a pretext to justify egoistic tendencies.
If you believe in some form of pan-psychism, i.e. the fact that everything is interconnected in a vast information network, we all have a de facto function in the mechanics of the universe, albeit fairly limited, except if you believe that the flutter of a butterfly's wings can have a disproportionate impact.
We long to express this functional meaning.
Maybe we could define it as a deep sense of belonging, of interconnectedness.
Ideologies are a moral attempt to codify the network and the patterns of interactions. Most people need those shared fictions to objectify their perception of what Meaning should entail. A good story is a very powerful way to convey abstract concepts.
We play our part by essence, as do all living beings and inanimate things, here on earth and in every remote corner of the cosmos.
We’re tiny drops in a giant game of communicating vessels. At a universal scale, there’s no notion of right or wrong. The universe doesn’t care, it has no morality. It preceded us and will most probably survive us.
If there’s a meaning to be found and to pursue on a daily basis, it is most certainly limited to the impact we can have here on earth, which depends on the role we have in society.
Circling back to our calling to have children, most of us should optimize for family success, which will in turn have a broader ripple effect. Great kids make great adults who build great societies.
The simple meaning of our life should be to ensure a bright(er) future for the generations to come, to give them a good reason to do the same.
If the Fermi Paradox still can’t be solved, we’re faced with two possibilities: either we’re one of countless intelligent self-conscious species in the universe (highly probable) or we’re a unique specimen (very unlikely).
If in doubt, we could focus on perpetuating humanity. Or even better, take a broader stance in favour of Life as a whole, which - until proven otherwise - remains an exceptional phenomenon.
Our inner calling could be to play the role of the Guardians of Life.
experience that goes past normal limits
What if the ultimate Meaning was all about Transcendence?
Beyond the moment, beyond ourselves, beyond our first circle, beyond our life-span, beyond our species.
Out of reach, off limits is a realm that surpasses but cannot discard us.
Inspired, not overwhelmed, in awe but not scared, we have to accept that our influence is anecdotal while assuming our essential role, both trivial and fundamental.