Life. We see it. We experience it. We feel it. When I was a senior in high school, my mentor (Bro) tasked each of us to write about the meaning of life. Every graduating student that year was allocated one page in the yearbook. My first effort (which I penned in class) got rave reviews from my peers. ‘Your meaning of life is so beauteous,’ one of them admitted. That I did this in one stroke, with no prior knowledge of the task, made it even more delicious. You see, the task started as an on-the-spot activity that evolved into a take-home exercise. I should’ve stuck with my initial response. At just two paragraphs, it wasn’t an exposition, yet it captured what I wanted to say. Furthermore, my first answer utilised simple language but meant business. Every sentence, every thought, had weight.
In the past, I’ve shared a little about my teacher. I’ve listed how he shared with our class new books, movies, TV shows, and new words. For reference, peek my post entitled ‘Losing Family.’ He gave us projects, but this meaning of life thing was the ultimate one. I wonder how he came up with this theme. Maybe he was knocking back a couple of beers while watching Monty Python before putting two and two together. I remember once in class, he suddenly asked us, ‘In the kingdom of the blind, who is king?’ Everyone in our section hazarded a guess, to no avail. ‘The one-eyed’, he wrote. I had this friend from another class who wanted to get the big answers. I fed him ‘the one-eyed’ retort given that they’d have Bro later. However, things didn’t go according to plan. When he gave his reply, and waited for the applause, Bro instead told him ‘You’re wrong.’
‘Did you wait a while before giving your answer?’
‘Yeah, I waited and everything.’
‘How did he say it?’ This was Jon, our other lunch companion.
‘I can imagine,’ Jon said.
When I got home, I started thinking. Perhaps my pal thought that I fed him the wrong answer? Regardless, while there were five classes, not many of them handed in stellar accounts. I remember my classmate Victor in particular. He made a really impressive effort, although there was one typo. A guy from another class also offered quality response. I recall the amount of work Bro did on those entries. He edited and proofread them; he followed up his lambs, trying to decipher their cryptic penmanship. When he needed more information, he approached them. He made sure that only their best accounts would make the yearbook. I know because I was there helping with the storm.
That was many years ago. Over time, I’ve read up more on the topic. For instance, I dissected Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie the following year. I also tried reading The Purpose Driven Life. Three years after the blind question, I found out that my pedagogue stole the line from Minority Report. I must admit though that pop culture is peppered with references to that sentiment. At this time, I was going through a lot of books and managed to peruse Catcher in the Rye. While still a teenager, I got some material published. Furthermore, a while ago, I started bingeing Six Feet Under. That show is full of fabulous anecdotes about life. In one ep, Nathan Fisher has a dream where his deceased father visits him. This is not unusual as the slain Fisher patriarch often appears in flashbacks or other scenes. However, in this particular instalment, he promises his son that he would provide the meaning of life. Nate wakes up to find that his father, as in life, had bamboozled him.
‘The Meaning of Life’
A few weeks ago, I was at my chiropractor’s when I noticed this small picture book with the title The Meaning of Life. I borrowed the book from him. I still had a fair few novels to knock back, so the text sat unread. I finally gave it a chance just recently and found out that it was published in 2001. Did my mentor find out about this book? Or was it Monty Python all along? Regardless, I enjoyed every page of the short book and found it very insightful. The images were well-picked and were a fitting background to the words on the pages. The book opens by positing that the text would offer questions rather than providing answers. I have paraphrased some of the read’s brightest material.
The first two dozen pages offer many questions and points of view. Why are we different? ‘Life is a journey.’ However, the author argues that loving life is more important than any of these assertions. This is not romantic love, but the zest for life, the joie di vivre. Why are we here? We may have conflicting priorities and are rife with dubious cut-offs. Yet one’s biggest let-down is knowing you blew your chance at the thing you love dearest. So, what’s your passion? What were you born to do? In answering these questions, you’ll unlatch the biggest question. There are many approaches to solving this conundrum, although finding time alone to reflect is the surest bet.
Through internalising the big matters and heeding your heart, you will find your destiny. A small voce – your conscience, guardian angel, your internal in-law – would never fail to set you free should you be prepared. Should you know your life’s passion, do not delay. Take a wild step forward then start galloping because the rest of your life starts today. Every nanosecond count; chase your dreams with vigour, or you might just as well see them fall down the drain. You can’t go to Taronga Zoo in two steps. Courage and dedication are necessary to mingle with the animals. Truth to be told, we are all blessed and are potentially great.
Footprints in the sand
Doing your thing is so important – so long as you’re truly happy. When you give your best shot at anything, you’ll feel like a winner already. In any endeavour, rejection is part and parcel of growth. You will face naysayers and doubters, people who will undermine your potential achievements. But should you follow your ambitions, worst-case scenario: you’ll tire yourself undertaking your heart’s desire. Getting the most out of life, cherishing every final bit, makes you feel like a different soul. Yet the best part of all, by completing things that ensure your whiskers would curl up in delight (assuming you do have whiskers), you’ll inspire others to likewise follow their dreams.
I am just another traveller who digested Mr Greive’s wondrous book. As per above, the writer sourced photos, rendering them in black and white. Often these stills function as conduits for the pages’ message. We should commend Mr Greive for what was surely a meticulous job in finding imagery that jives. In my post, I try to keep the author’s artistic license alive. I have culled photos that closely resemble the relevant pages in the book. In some cases, I was able to find the exact match – in full colour. Make no mistake though. The photos may be consequential in the book, but in my work, they merely supplement the real spirit.
Meaning is not the paradigm shift that would reveal the secrets of the universe. However, the book is not a deceiver like Nate Senior. I didn’t end up feeling hoodwinked or that I misspent my time. As noted, the book makes a number of convincing points. At 121 pages, I browsed it in an hour. The question has some deontological overtones. There may be many approaches to the query: absurdism, solipsism, even Foucauldian or Freudian outlooks. Someone once quoted a national hero: ‘We are like rocks in the meadow….’ Whatever viewpoint you take, we can concur that the search for meaning is an inchoate errand.