The Meaning of Life

It’s late, so today’s post is going to be briefer than usual.

After work, there was a guy sitting outside of his dorm room a few doors down from mine. We met a few weeks ago during a fire drill. Everyone in the dorms evacuated downstairs and while we were waiting, I introduced myself. He was reading a book by Deepak Chopra and seemed like an interesting guy.

Our conversation cut off after the fire alarms stopped ringing and we didn’t get to really have a deep conversation. Over the last couple weeks we’ve walk passed each other and exchanged head nods and hellos.

Well, when I got off today, he was sitting outside writing in a book. I awkwardly said hello and asked him to if he wanted to talk. I didn’t know what about but I don’t meet many people who read. I walked into my room and changed quickly. When I walked back out, I sat on the ground next to him and we started talking about books.

The conversation delved quickly into the meaning of life. He talked about how our purpose in life is to pursue happiness. Ultimately the desire to be happy. An interesting, if not cliché, idea. I was more than okay to discuss this with him. I’ve read enough Buddhist books to feel equipped for this kind of conversation.

He went on about happiness was the meaning of life. I played devil’s advocate and asked him if sadness was the opposite of this goal. Is the point of life to avoid sadness? He disagreed, then continued on about happiness. I asked him if he was happy. “No”. Then I asked him why not.

His answer started to fade out in my head. He started labeling the reasons he wasn’t happy. As if there was this resistance around him that prevented him from achieving happiness. I’m not saying this to invalidate his logic or beliefs but rather to discuss my reaction to it.

He brought up what’s going on in his life, what he’s doing, how he’s pursuing happiness but it just faded in my head. All I could think was how he wasn’t choosing happiness. There was no resistance. It was just him. Nothing in his life was preventing his happiness, only he was.

When I told him that, he said that maybe he wasn’t ready for happiness. Everything within me rumbled. He was pursuing happiness by trying to understand it. He wanted to know what it was, how it got there, and why he should feel it. Yet, the purpose of life, in his head, is to have happiness. He couldn’t have happiness until he understood it.

I asked him if he needed to understand happiness to have happiness. He said no, but he just wants to understand why he’s so resistant to it. Why this and why that. There were so many questions that were getting in the way. Big fancy questions about life that ultimately served no purpose.

These questions used to drive me mad. I wanted to know. Deeply within my being, I wanted to understand happiness and why people feel happy or sad. The questions would feel like a weight on my shoulder. I could only have what I understood emotionally. If I didn’t know what happiness was exactly, how would I know if I had it.

Over time, I’ve realized that these questions, while they seem important, often aren’t. There’s no way I could calm his mind and say “be happy”. He has to find that himself. He’ll pursue understanding of many things – and that’s alright. Maybe he’ll find happiness in a way that I haven’t.

I bring this up because I learned a lot about myself today. He felt like a reflection. I resisted happiness and wanted to understand it. I wanted to know things which are ultimately unimportant. Why my relationships have failed, why I’ve chosen this life path working in the military, what am I going to do to be happy when I finished my contract.

These questions are distractions from happiness. Seeing him fumble through these questions made me realize how much I’ve been focusing on removing obstacles from my happiness. The only block in my path is me. I’m the one who distracting myself and blaming circumstance for my unhappiness.

It seems so simple now. There’s no way I could properly communicate my understanding of this. I tried to explain it to him. Understanding doesn’t always equal happiness. Knowing how to be happy doesn’t make you happy. (As I shout this last sentence at my bookcases filled with self-help guides).

While these are noble pursuits, they don’t bring you what you want. In fact, there’s nothing out there that you don’t already have within yourself. If you want happiness, then take it in. Really appreciate it when you have it.

I don’t think the purpose of life is to seek happiness. I think seeking happiness leads to unhappiness. The purpose of life seems to be to experience life to the fullest. Feel every emotion as deep as it is. That means happiness, sadness, anger, bitterness, bliss, and the wide variety of emotions that you feel on a daily basis. Really take them in. Experience them.

When you walk, feel your feet hitting the floor. When you eat, really taste the food. When you lay in bed, really sink in and feel it. That is my current view on life. Not to say it’s right or wrong but it’s what I’ve learned thus far. Talking to my neighbor today really highlighted that belief. You can choose to take everything and experience it… or you can try to understand it and examine it at every angle. Neither is better than the other. Life is just life.

Anyways, this post is becoming longer than I anticipated and much more existential than it needs to be. It’s almost 0300. I need to hit the hay.

If I haven’t said it enough already, go check out my cousin Tabby’s blog. She’s writing everyday for the month of BLOGtober. AND… AND… she just redesigned her blog. Go give it a looksey through this LINK. Today she wrote an update about living at home while her husband is deployed. It’s worth a read. Her deployment series is interesting – since I haven’t experienced it yet, I enjoy reading her perspectives on it.

Happy day five of BLOGtober!

 

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