Conversations about meaning are in the least unwelcome.
Why is it important to set your own values? What are the benefits of shaping your future through conscious decisions in the present?
What I find pitiful about our society, especially in regards to the upcoming generation of young adults, is that conversations of meaning have become a taboo. Attempts to undertake a deep exchange of ideas in a group are met with mockery. They aren’t welcome during our everyday lives and are often pushed to the background. Meaning becomes the backdrop of life, something that stays behind the events of our existence. Personally, however, I perceive it to be an erroneous attitude. Instead, I would propose meaning to be above all of our decisions, which sum up to be our lives.
Time to Make Up Your Mind
To my mind, it seems that some strange adversity towards philosophy manifests itself through lack of awareness. As I have observed many a time, my peers tend to build the pyramid of their values from the very foundation. Such practice appears to hold water, as that’s how all structures have been erected (which is substantiated by how gravity, the primary force of the universe, works). What I would suggest, though, is to approach the matter from the opposite side.
First, let’s take a closer look at how some young people go through their lives without any thought on it whatsoever (or with a thought touching only the surface of this case). Around the time an individual approaches maturity, questions begin to arise. During the times of their childhood, the vast majority of choices were made by their caregivers, parents and people of greater reason and experience. Yet, when the time finally comes to begin making up their own minds (an art which they have been learning since the day they were born), they leave their lives to coincidences.
With the inevitable progression of time, choices they make are often chaotic and based on momentary conclusions, which more often than not seem to be timeless. They choose a school, get an education, find a job, start a family, and eventually lead a life. My impression is that they might be devoid of meaning. Each decision taken in the present is yet another brick to the pyramid we’re building. If those choices aren’t consistent with a universal goal we perceive, the outcome is impossible to predict.
The Life Pyramid
Were one to begin from the very top of one’s life pyramid, I believe it would introduce a certain order. By taking one’s time at the end of one’s adolescence to set a concrete value (or a set of values) to pursue in adulthood, one can thoughtfully pave one’s road for the rest of one’s life. Having a greater meaning to strive for (be it a virtue, a listicle of rules, or ethical ideals) shall put each of our decisions accordingly, so as to achieve (or at least to strive for) perfection. Consider the following example:
Being as confident a man as I am, the vice which has made itself shown on many occasions in my hitherto life was pride. My arrogance has proven itself to be but detrimental to me, as well as the people with whom I got to interact. Hence, I decided that it is humility I shall try to attain. Having that at the front of my mind, in every social interaction I began to pay significantly more attention to my words, actions, and thoughts. Besides, I would also recall some of my conversations and analyze them, deciding what was beneficial to the intercommunication, and what was to be omitted.
As a result of having that virtue at the top of the pyramid, I became more aware of how I could influence and shape my social connections, as well as reality. With that ideal, the petty actions, even the most trivial of them, were subordinated to it. The smallest of my doings were now components meant to lead to a certain, pre-chosen pinnacle.
The Desired Outcome
Had I not meditated on the sole idea of humility, its importance and benefits, my actions would be but a random collection of individual deeds. They would either sum up to a peak of the pyramid that was undesired, or sum up to the desired result by coincidence, or not sum up to anything at all, thus leaving my life devoid of meaning. This uncertainty leaves a lot of room for error, which I do not find appealing. At the same time, we can see how our conscious actions in the present contribute to the overall future meaning.
This set of virtues, one formulated by yourself, and not merely passed down for generations as a tradition of morality, religion, or law, becomes the Governor of your life – your meaning. However you may call it, I understand it not as the driving force of your actions, but rather a paradigm, to which all smaller ones subdue. Therefore, the pyramid is being built with a clear idea behind it, rising up to reach a certain goal, with a concise plan behind it. One becomes an architect, knowing the building scheme inside out, with its inner systems, the arrangement of rooms, and secret passages, instead of being a worker, who only puts bricks atop one another, unaware of what and for what purpose they’re building.
Let’s try to be the conscious decision-makers of our own lives instead of mere blades of grass in the wind. There is no one proper way to live, there’s no universal essence behind existence. You won’t find the truth in the universe, in religion, in ideology (and if you do, wouldn’t that be but someone else’s truth?). Only by defining your own meaning can you seek for the truth hidden within you. Take the bull by its horns and surf through life on your own, predetermined waves. Otherwise, you might drown, lost in the endless paths of nihilism and futility.
Adversity Towards Meaningful Conversations
Yet, in spite of its conspicuous benefits not only to the individual but also to society, the conversation on meaning is unwelcome. On some occasions when it does occur, it’s most probable that one of the persons having that conversation is inevitably drunk. This phenomenon in itself is a curious one. It’s only when unable to fully and consciously control the words coming out of one’s mouth, when one ventures into the unknown, letting one’s thoughts run around freely.
Notwithstanding, this meditation on meaning and higher moral virtues ought to be conducted under the soberest of conditions. Leaving one’s future at the mercy of fate is in the least unthoughtful. A meaningful contemplation requires a clear mind, perhaps for the very same reason why it’s so often omitted: it’s difficult. As humans, we abhor difficulty and novelty. Learning a new language is so hard because at the beginning we know absolutely nothing, yet we see native speakers using their tongue fluently. Many of us give up, preferring not to try than to feel stupid. This fear of the unknown is harmful, and the incapability of facing it leads to calamitous outcomes in the future.
Going deep is, therefore, a topic of jokes, called such names as weird or cringeworthy (a word I particularly detest). Living a carefree life is easy, and refusing to take the responsibility seems to be the key to all problems. Still, those solutions are but momentary.
Let us live our lives submissive to an individual ideal – a new religion devoid of the reminiscents of Christianity, nationalism, and other ideologies. We can’t escape the notion of belief, so why not be aware of what we’re striving for and make our own decisions? Thinking for yourself has never been easy, and the idea to give up on ourselves for the sake of something greater than ourselves (be it God, country, or the climate) is indeed quite tempting.
Be the architect of your fate, instead of a mere slave of coincidence or other people’s ideas. The importance of meaning lies in finding the individual truth as the only way to resist the pressure of mass movements (which have recently become a fine alternative to religion, philosophy, or any other set of ideals for masses) from one side, and nihilism from the other. 1
To find meaning is to search for your own path. The present, continuous, and voluntary suffering is supposed to lead to something great in the future – a heaven. Let that heaven (the desired goal) be known and true with our own values from the beginning, before we set off for the journey – so that we don’t find ourselves lost in the convoluted corridors of hell.
- What if you’ve decided to choose your own way, and it just so happened that it aligned perfectly with a movement, religion, a philosophy? What if your individual values are the same as values of another ideology? My response would be – look deeper. Is it really possible that you pursue exactly the same values as thousands, if not millions of other people? Aren’t your decisions biased by the current hot topics of politics? Ridding yourself of subjectivity is next to impossible. Yet, an attempt to clear your mind of the prejudice of the modern society, media, and political pressure is essential to find out who you are – not who somebody would like you to be.