More than ten years ago, I received a book for my birthday. The message inside the gift said: The Bible is the Lord’s love letter to humankind. I give you this book with the hope that the reply mankind gave to God will also nourish your soul. Happy birthday! And, indeed, so it was.
The collection of thoughts that people from different countries, with different ages, beliefs and professions unearthed from the deepest layers of their soul in order to offer them to a receptive God impressed me: whole pages of adoration, rage and turmoil, gratitude, but also traces of scepticism, all threaded by a single goal—the need for clarity, a fundamental need to which sooner or later we all fall prey.
Life does not come with instructions for use
At some point we realize that life does not come with instructions for use. School teaches us more about rivers and mountains than about meaning and love. Parents do not have time for existential questions. Maturity gives us predefined roles and relative control over them. We are preoccupied with making sure that the sky is the limit. Slogans like: Feel free!, Be yourself!, Follow your path! tickle our ears while our real choices seem insignificant in relation to what we are asked to believe. Even the meaning of life becomes trivial when, at the end of a day’s work, we fall asleep with the idea that the latest laptop, stove or digital clock could make us happier.
But there is a part of us that is immune to material rewards, to the mechanical rhythm of life, to alienation. A part where motivations, beliefs and, obviously, questions arise. How can we access clarity if nothing bothers us?
But not everyone is looking for additional justifications. There are the lucky ones who, in everything they do—from shopping at the supermarket to performing heart surgery—emanate lightness, reconciliation with themselves and reconciliation with life, people of all ages, religions and social strata for whom the meaning of life is life itself.
Meaning has no objective existence
In my case, the three decades and a bit of existence proved insufficient to fully unravel its mystery. Future success in this area is also unlikely, because meaning has no objective existence to frame and benchmark. Beyond the conditioning of tradition and new trends, of the objective models around meaning, its purpose and value remain purely subjective, and incapable of being transferred from one person to another.
We share, of course, a collective purpose. As a society, our goal is to grow, advance, and find formulas of well-being for most of us, at least officially. As individuals, we have the right to choose. And we all want “customers”: science promotes knowledge; the church, salvation; psychologists, self-perfection; corporations, happiness that can be bought.
Everyone has to discover their meaning
Under these conditions, to whom should we entrust our souls? Preferably to the one who keeps them clean. The nice (and hard) part is that everyone has to discover their meaning for themselves.
Personally, I am convinced that the paths of life reveal meaning to us as we walk them; that great values like love, hope, and trust cannot be bypassed when we want to live purposefully. Next to them, and no less important, are the natural things that we sometimes underestimate: the blessing of a new day, the bonds of attachment, our footprint in the world, worries that teach us to control fear. This can be a valid meaning—not to fear happiness.
If 34 years has not been enough to solve the mystery of life, 12,410 days are still enough for me to get a vague idea of how to capitalize on them:
- of how to live with certainties, but also with ambiguities, wounds, shortcomings, bad days and vulnerabilities;
- of how to accept that there is both good and bad in the world;
- of how to choose our sides;
- of how to swim against the current;
- of not abandoning the race;
- of how to ask questions and not run away from the answers.
Clarity is neither difficult nor easy to obtain. It is obtained depending on how much we are willing to lower our guard.
Genia Ruscu has a master’s degree in counselling in the field of social work.