“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Two years ago, I ripped off all of the labels that defined me. I had always seen myself as a musician, but at that moment I hadn’t touched an instrument in many years (and I was the only one to blame for that). I had wanted so desperately to be an engineer – and now I was, but it brought me no excitement or value – it actually felt like wearing someone else’s clothes that were too small. And, my faith that had defined so much of my life unraveled as I studied more philosophy and I that I was carrying someone else’s chains, a heavy burden in the hopes of earning meaning and value that never came.
I had my moment of clarity and uncertainty (where the emotions of the above paragraph finally hit me) at 3am trying to help my daughter calm and settle so that we all could get some sleep. At that moment I felt so small, alone and helpless. The pain of feeling helpless to provide what she needed made me see how I couldn’t even provide what I needed.
Shortly there after, suffering through the depression that comes from a loss of identity and confusion I decided to seek help from a therapist. After working with him for about eight months I found a new path forward for my life that helped me feel hopeful. I had a new identity that I wanted to understand. I wanted to understand “who I was”. That question was ultimately about helping me find an answer the question of “what makes MY LIFE meaningful”. It wasn’t to be a global “this is how everyone finds meaning”. It was purely for myself.
I’ve now many books, listed to many guru’s, learned to meditate, worked with coaches and used creative practices to dig out an answer to that very question. My life has been consumed with trying to find an answer. But I have also come to suspect that there is no answer.
The more I explore, the more I feel that there aren’t good answers to the big questions. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is love? How should I serve others? These are all fantastic questions and are worthy of exploring answers. Yet, there are “none”. At least, there aren’t answers in the typical way I understand an answer.
2 + 2 = 4.
12 x 12 = 144.
The circumference of a circle is 3.14 time the diameter (or more accurately pi times the diameter).
There is one solution.
Science and math get more interesting as they get more advanced. For instance, there is no answer for the square root of -1. It’s called an irrational number. It’s given it’s on symbol i (or j depending on your usage – don’t you just love math that can’t even use constant symbols for constants). Or more interestingly, look at atoms: an electron is circling its nucleus, and the electron acts like a quantum particle such that you can either know it’s momentum, or it’s position but not both. Science has limits of understanding and knowledge that are fundamental to our abilities to perceive.
I’m going to save you from expanding on post-structuralist philosophy, and Wittgenstian concepts, but needless to say, things get confusing and weird and the concepts of “reality” or “truth” are even debatable.
All that is to say, I’m not sure, based on current knowledge if there is an answer to my question: what is a meaningful life?
But, that makes the search all the more interesting. If there is no answer, I can explore, play, be creative, and decide what I believe today and then as I know more throw it off tomorrow with a deeper, better thought. I can still pursue an answer knowing that there isn’t one – and be enriched simply by the journey.
What is the question you are pursuing?
I think a lot of us have one that we want to answer, and that gets planted in us as a young child. Sometimes we stop pursuing it because we’ve found a good-enough answer. Sometimes we stop pursuing it because its hard, soul draining work. I think we all have a question to explore, an answer to search for; and the exploration makes our life more rich, more fulfilling and an exciting story.
What’s your question?
And, are you brave enough to accept that there is no answer, but “the answer” is still important to search for?
Can you let go of the need for an answer and still explore deeper and deeper, allowing yourself to grow and evolve as you search, all the while knowing that there is no end, no purpose other than the path which you are stumbling along – hopefully enjoying the journey.