I was recently talking with someone wealthy and somewhat famous (on the internet). He mentioned that since he’s become wealthy he’s been searching for meaning. I was all, dude, I’ve noticed. Not really into that.
We are from the midwest. That means we are pragmatists. We generally keep our navels covered so we don’t spend much time looking at them. I thought that, but didn’t say it. We do things because they’re The Right Thing to Do. Not because of some grand purpose or passion or destiny or whatever.
Back when I had a ton of free time (see: K-8), I would sit around in the back yard and analytically ponder the meaning of life. I decided that the only true meaning of life was that of reproduction. We were put on earth to reproduce. I thought as a species that we had done (more than) a fine job of doing that, and we were at a point at which the human race would be fine and people could make their own decisions about reproduction using their rational minds. (This was before I figured out what made boys so interesting and got the urge to go through the motions of reproduction without actually, you know, reproducing. Er hem.)
Given that our main duty in life was being taken care of by the race as a whole, that allowed us to pursue other purposes. I decided that I liked hedonism as a guiding philosophy and I would do the things I liked. Being from the midwest, of course, I also had a large lump of responsibility. So to quote the Wicca, “An it hurts no one, do what you will.”
I’m pretty sure I haven’t really thought about my purpose since. Maybe at 3am in a college dorm hallway, but I probably just related the story above. I have generally had better things to do and think about (like how sexy my partner is!).
I do, however, sometimes wonder why some people spend so much time on the question. I sort of understand the self-help gurus– they like to separate desperately unhappy people with money from some of that money. It’s the unhappy people who have no real reason to be unhappy that I just don’t get. If it’s chemical, then why aren’t they searching for solutions in a doctor’s office? If it isn’t chemical, then why are they allowing themselves to be unhappy just because they can’t find their “purpose” in life. Whatever that means. It seems like pondering the question just creates more angst. So why not stop worrying about finding meaning in life and, you know, live life instead?
But, as I said earlier, we’re from the midwest. We are incapable of understanding this coastal melancholia. Perhaps that means we’re somehow incomplete or there’s something wrong with us. But you know, pondering that question might make us sad for no purpose at all, so why ponder it? If a person has that kind of free-time, that’s why God invented the modern novel. (Or Cervantes invented it, depending on your view.)
*Some women search for meaning too, but we’re mostly too busy. Second shift and mental load, dontcha know.
Do you spend a lot of time searching for meaning? Do you think doing so affects people’s happiness levels? Do you think this is something mainly done on the coasts (particularly the West Coast), and if so, why are there regional differences?