Meaning is contained within whatever we call our souls.
Meaning is derived from a sense of responsibility. Broadly, responsibility is a series of elements:
- Having the capacity to make decisions…
- …which create actions, which may simply be thoughts…
- …which accomplish a purpose directed toward an object.
- We’ve predicted the purpose will create value for a living thing, either directly or indirectly.
- We believe our decision changed the consequence.
- The decision we made should have prevented a potential loss or suffering, or possibly increased satisfaction.
Decisions operate independently of habit, so we can only continue feeling meaning by continuing to make conscious choices. Otherwise, we start drifting from our sense of meaning. Building new habits can be a choice, and is probably one of the only choices we can continuously make the same throughout our life beyond anything regarding religion.
The greatest form of experiencing meaning comes through creating things that benefit others. When we only consider sacrificing for others’ interests, we will find incomprehensible meaning through love.
Even without that provocation, anyone will turn around and pursue the difficult things when they realize that we find meaning out of the challenge itself. With the exception of cats, animals prefer to hunt their food than have it given to them.
When people run from risks long enough to make it a habit, they lose control of themselves. At this point, it’s very easy for them to feel they’re a victim. In some ways they’re correct, especially if their family of origin hadn’t taught them how to be responsible.
The one benefit to being a victim is that there’s no need to personally change. Unfortunately, it leads to a life of existential misery, and typically leads to even more hardship, since a person have the most to lose from their own bad decisions.
The only way to get out of their unpleasant situation is to claim responsibility of what they should have done and still have control over. This can express as performing basic housekeeping or finding something that makes them happy.
Some people imagine a broadened scope of existence (e.g., a million years) makes everything meaningless. That’s only proving itself true from that specific perspective, but doesn’t prove anything else.
We don’t find much meaning in the fulfillment of the things we want. Generally, shortly after we celebrate attaining those things, we look immediately for something else to fulfill us. However, we anticipate that we will find spectacular meaning in things we do as we imagine it in the future.
The pathway to fulfilling a purpose is far more influential to our sense of meaning than actually getting there. The only requirement is that we feel we’re making progress toward it, which is usually possible as long as we hope it can happen, and it’s much easier to maintain hope when we can’t measure our goals.
Once we’ve attained something, we’re guaranteed to get bored. The only way we’ll ever find meaning after building something is to find new purposes to attain.
Ironically, we can find meaning in things that do not contribute whatsoever to a better existence through mindless habits of hope. This is a perversion of the good life, since there’s only marginal love for oneself without producing any tangible benefit to pretty much anyone.
Because purpose comes through simply acting based on a prediction of the future, we can use technology (i.e., computers) to reproduce it. However, because meaning incorporates feelings, the agency of choice, and far more understanding, there’s absolutely no way to automate it. This is a shame because it’s vital to the good life.
To find meaning, start with what you can control, then link it together with one of your problems. There are too many problems to focus on them exclusively, and we can’t do anything about what we can’t control.
Just because we have meaning right now, or have had it for a long time, does not mean we’ll have it in the future. It requires constantly observing our sense of dissatisfaction to observe that shift, but we’ll also detect it when we start doing things with less enthusiasm.
We often find meaning in something, then forget to continue adding meaning. This creates challenges as we change and convert those meaningful tasks into habits, often culminating in a spark of awareness (e.g., a mid-life crisis).
Enjoyment in something isn’t in the attainment, but the effort and expected results. For that reason, accomplishing challenging and relatively unnoticed things that help others is far more rewarding than simply acquiring or achieving more.
We find unbelievable meaning through sacrifice for others, and it’s why parenting is considered one of the most rewarding jobs, even while it’s also mostly unrewarding externally.
Opportunities to succeed exist wherever responsibility was neglected.
If someone finds meaning in something, don’t bother trying to change that person’s mind. You can potentially influence them if they want to hear you out, but their purpose is already set based on values they’ve already imagined and committed to believing.
Nihilism implies everything is meaningless because it eventually won’t matter. They’re only correct if they believe that we live all instances at once. There’s quite a lot of meaning to find in self-preservation and love for others we can do right now. Most nihilists believe in meaninglessness because they prioritize certainty too much.
We can find meaning pretty much anywhere if we think about it long enough, and it contains many shared parallels: