Maybe life is suffering. Maybe our existential dilemma is manifested by our station in life. Maybe, just maybe, we have to feel miserable in some way to know we are still alive. Is it then too far of a reach to think we all suffer the same degree?
To ask what is life in a non biological sense sort of begs the question what is the meaning of life? It seems age old and as far as I’ve ever known, nobody seems to have a clear answer. It seems to me that there is a logical error in asking this question, kind of like how you can’t divide by 0.* The question we should be asking is what is the meaning of my life? Can each and every person on Earth have an answer to that? …
From here, the question is succinct enough to convey the idea that each of us is, simply by existing, a part of a larger whole, yet it lies wide open for individual interpretation. What is the purpose of my life, the role my brain was molded for, the thing I’m meant to do? What is the legacy of my life, the thing that I’m known for, the impact I’ve made, the mark I have left, the decisions of others that I have influenced? What is the effect of my life, the impact I leave on my children, the change I have effected on the world, the difference I made? Destiny, perhaps? Meaning is the function that connects you to the world.
Given the meaning of one’s life is found, and life is lived to fulfill that meaning, does that in turn satisfy us? Can we be happy by simply living out our purpose? Does this ease the suffering of life? Surely, this isn’t the sole key to happiness in life? “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work again.” Isn’t that it?
Suppose you are fortunate enough to do what you enjoy doing and it somehow still doesn’t feel like work. You may have made peace with your self and your connection to the world, but any number of unfortunate fates await a person. Illnesses and traumas are inevitable, but merely an aside to the consequences of unfortunate connections and best intentions fallen by the wayside. What of happiness then? Can one find happiness in the worst of conditions, perhaps even if most of their life seems stricken by misfortune? What weight do we give the sufferings of life, when those in great suffering can find happiness in so many places and those of immense fortune cannot be happy for a moment?
What is happiness? Again, I think the common way of asking is inherently wrong. Happiness isn’t a thing, it’s how we feel when our mind is positively focused. Perhaps we should be asking, “Where is happiness?” This question prompts active search rather than passive pondering. Where do you find your happiness? That’s a question we can answer. Sure, there’s bucket lists and hobbies, friends and family. It’s easy to think of at least a couple answers to where you find your happiness. I had a friend in Colorado that would insist on playing The Glad Game. Simply take turns stating I’m glad that _ and fill in the blank with something that hasn’t already been used that day. Being as we did construction, it was sometimes modified to The Fucking Glad Game, especially after a few rounds! Nonetheless, it usually cut through the thickest clouds of misery and gave folks a reason to laugh. Maybe focusing on happiness for the sake of a game takes the pressure off of trying to think happy thoughts for the sake of being happy.
Money doesn’t buy happiness any more than love. It can only ease so much suffering. Maybe without financial stress, in a vehicle both sturdy to outside hazards and comforting to the rider, the other sufferings of life are more impacting.
I will wrap up my philosophical soap box speech with one last thought. Maybe what intrinsically ties together these concepts of life, meaning, and happiness is reason. What is the reason I live my life? What is the reason my life means what it does? What reason do I have to be happy? Maybe asking the right questions is the key to avoiding an existential crisis.
*Yes, I remember invoking L’Hopital’s Theorem to divide by an expression that simplifies to 0. Entirely beside my point though!