What is the point of living? You probably have asked this question before. I have turned this question in my mind for years and several years ago, I found my meaning of life.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”—Mark Twain
Recently, I started writing a journal by hand to pen my thoughts. My previous journals were kept during my teenage years and since then I have moved on to digital note taking methods. I use Day One for quick, short entries on the phone. Day One for Mac allows me to accomplish that on my MacBook via the menu bar quick entry. However, I find writing longhand makes my thoughts flow with the ink and I end up reflecting and thinking more as I write my entries in my journal.
Zen Habits is a blog I have been following since 2007 and I find myself constantly inspired by his writings, and I strongly encourage you to read his articles if you share the passion to improve yourself and your lives. A few days ago, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote about not wasting your life. The point that Leo put across in the article was something I had just written down in my journal a week ago. That reminded me of what I said about authenticity. I should share some of my thoughts here because it might resonate, inspire or spark a different train of thoughts in readers.
Illusion of life
A combination of watching Fight Club and writing my journal led to me reflecting upon life. A quote from the movie reminded me of my meaning of life, and that spurred me to write an entry about it. You are probably familiar with the famous quote from the movie.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t.”—Tyler Durden
We are caught in the rat race. We toil away at work to sustain our lives. Unless you are born with a silver spoon, you will experience the need to work and earn a living. This usually happens after we graduate and become a working adult, though some might be thrust into employment by circumstances while they are still studying. Most of us will be saddled with debt even before graduation, and we end up spending the years upon graduating paying off the tuition fee loans. All this while, we were told that as long as we study hard and get a good job, we will succeed in life. That kept us going on until we realise one day that it was all a myth. Yes, a better education might give you an edge, but in a society flooded with degree holders, it might amount to nothing.
Advertising has sold us the illusion of a successful life where we live happily ever after. They portray the lives of successful or happy people and then sell us a product. And we subconsciously link the product to being successful or happiness. We buy the products to feel successful or happy. Or the marketing campaign would push a product that we don’t want and make us feel like we actually need them. So we end up spending on things we don’t need, and work harder to pay for our purchases or sustain the “successful” lifestyle. We fall deeper into the rat race and become even more burdened and unhappy.
What is material possession? Whatever you own in your life, you leave behind when you die. What is your legacy then? Assets that are divided among your family? Is that going to be the meaning of your life? Perhaps you were an employee of a company of thousands. Does your contribution amount to anything significant? Make no mistake. By all means, I’m not discrediting contribution that anyone makes, however small it might be. I’m a firm believer that the sum of all parts is greater than the whole. If you believe that you will be able to rest in peace with whatever contribution you made, then you have lived a fruitful life.
By significance, I refer to what you make of it yourself. After all, it is your life.
So how do you determine whether what you do is significant? Steve Jobs shared a quote that I have been using to constantly reflect upon myself:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”—Steve Jobs
I will not, and cannot, be the judge of what life means to you. It is up to you to look in the mirror and determine that for yourself. My role here is just to make you ask that question.
Meaning of life
I have found what I believe is the meaning of life.
We live in this life to leave behind a meaningful legacy. What matters is to have a legacy that we would be proud of. If an accumulation of wealth and material possessions is what you wish to leave behind, it’s your choice. But if you know that you have a month left live, would you spend it working to build up assets that you can leave behind? Some people do, because they want their children and loved ones to live a better life. It is commendable but it raises the question of whether having more equates a better life.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”—Steve Jobs
Be certain that the legacy you will leave behind is what you wish for yourself, and not something that is imposed upon you by society or by people around you.
Meaning of my life
For me, life is about creating something that will last through the ages. Write articles or stories. Take photos. Make a video. Publish a book. Draw. Build a brand. Create a product. The ideal is to strive to create something unique and special so others cannot easily replicate it without looking like they stole your work. But at the very least, life is meaningful if I leave behind something I created that people would associate with me. An imprint or echo of myself that will remain years after I’m gone. This explains my passion in photography, design and writing.
I take it a step further. Rather than just tangible, I want to create intangibles. Create memories with my friends and loved ones. Good memories they will remember me by. It is harder to quantify the intangible but I have a way to test myself. I ask myself if I were to leave the world today, would I be able to live with, or rather die with, the kind of relationships I have with people around me? Was there someone you want to mend your relationship with? Do it now. Or something you wished to get in touch with? Or a compliment or something you’ve kept deep in your heart that you want someone to know? Don’t live thinking there’s always tomorrow.
Embrace impermanence. Nothing is permanent. So treat everything as though it would disappear in the next moment.
“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”—Tyler Durden
TL;DR. Meaning of life is 42.