Meaningful living is not a fixed or static state. It is a journey to a meaningful destination. We have clearly not arrived at any state of perfection. We, as well as everything around us, are in constant change. And the question is: change to what? As we make our choices in response to ever-changing situations, our lives evolve. Are we in the process slipping further into meaninglessness or are we progressing towards more meaning?
Meaninful living is to strive for meaning. Striving for meaning requires nothing less than ceaseless work on oneself and refining of one’s personal vision.
Of all the things in the world that can astound us, nothing comes close to the amazing fact that we have the freedom of our will. We can choose how we respond to any situation. Not only instinctively, but, more importantly, in a rational, planned way. We can take on the role of a creator and envision a desired destination that will determine how we respond to the immediate situation we are facing. With the end in mind, we can construct our responses to serve the goal that we pursue. If, for instance, we envision a future of loving, caring and trusting intimate relationships, it will determine how we respond to the actions, words and demeanour of our inner circle. We cannot control what others will say to us, and we cannot control the many things that can happen to us, but we can control our responses, thereby shaping our future.
The good, beautiful and just that we envision, will always be work in progress. It is work that starts with the responsibility we take for our choices. The more we consciously embrace personal responsibility for our responses, the more we bring meaning into our lives. Would life have meaning if we had no choice in loving God, our neighbour and life in general? No, it can only be meaningful in the context of freedom. We realise meaning by thinking and making choices for a higher order than what we would have if we were nothing but two-legged animals.
The direction of our lives and our experience of meaning are negatively impacted to the degree that our responses to the various situations we are facing from day to day are impulsive and random, lacking any connection with a vision and any internal compass. Our freedom of choice come with the responsibility to plan which direction we will take on our life journey from any moment on.
There are many facets to a vision for our life. What is the spiritual quality of such a vision? What is the level of self-knowledge that informs the vision? Does the vision evolve and is it a reflection of personal changes and growth? What is the vision in terms of putting one’s talents to use, what is it for family life, contributions to broader society, and more? In all of the above facets of life, meaningful living is based on the vision, goal or purpose we choose to guide us over and past the obstacles of an imperfect life. Meaningful living is not the absence of adversities but the free creation of meaningful responses to the degree that our lives are illuminated by what is eternally good, beautiful and true.
Thus, meaningful living is to strive for meaning. Striving for meaning requires nothing less than ceaseless work on oneself and refining of one’s personal vision. It follows that ‘meaning’ is a personal assignment to accomplish with discipline. What could be meaningful in your life, with your unique qualities and your opportunities? It is, however, not self-serving aspirations that are at the core of this vision, but service to the Giver of life. Meaningful living is characterised by humble service and not by egoistic strivings and aggrandizement.
What is in the past, is in the past. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Meaningful living requires us to wake up in the morning with this thought in mind. It requires us to refocus over and over again on our spiritual vision of ‘meaning’. This has a massive practical implication for the typical modern, megacity lifestyle. We have to step away from the noise in our ears. But even more so, the noise in our head. You cannot be the visionary of your life that you need to be if you don’t have quiet time, on your own and spiritually alert to God’s wisdom for you. This is the only way to craft your vision of meaning, the only way to ensure that your life takes the direction of more meaningful creations.