Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life. ~ T.S.Eliot
If you’re anything like me, you get to mid-life and you go: Shit. What’s my life all about? What’s it really all about? At some point, the logistical imperatives of the first half of life – figuring out how to make a living, finding a partner, raising a family and so on – fall away, leaving you standing more or less empty-handed in the middle of your life, wondering what it all ultimately means (if anything).
This mid-life crisis can be a deafening wake-up call or the beginning of a quiet, gradual sinking into trivia and faux busy-ness that keeps the sense of meaninglessness comfortably at bay. Meaning isn’t hard to find, but it must be consciously sought. It probably isn’t found at the mall or on TV. I like this quote by Katherine Woodward Thomas:
What makes life worth living is being actively engaged in becoming the finest, most delicious human being you can possibly be in this lifetime. What makes life worth living is finding people and projects that you can love and stand by and give yourself to completely.
So, here are some areas of life that are particularly ripe with meaning. Relationships - from family to friends to neighbors to strangers. Work - whether for pay or for love. Hobbies that light you up (not the ones that just suck up your time). Spirituality in all its many guises (my favorite meaning-maker). There’s nothing dramatic here. You are not required to join Mother Teresa in Calcutta in order to live a meaningful life, but you do have to look carefully at the people and things that genuinely bring you joy and fulfillment, and stock your life with them.
Your list won’t look like anyone else’s, because meaning-making is as individual as fingerprints. Life is an inscrutable, precious puzzle and no one really knows why we’re here. It’s up to each of us to simply play the hands we’re dealt as honorably and well as we can, being fully present to what is happening in our lives and choosing, whenever possible, to move toward love and joy in whatever form that takes for us. And that is enough for one man’s (or woman's) life.
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