Finding Meaning in An Imperfect World

Many of us try to find meaning in life by trying to “fix” something in the world – helping orphans, feeding the poor, helping masses by making an invention, donating time and/or money to charities. Yet even those orphans will one day die, the inventions will be replaced by others, and even those established charities will be gone. Impermanence will rule, no matter what we do.

Life is like writing exquisite poems on the sand. You never know when the next wave will hit and erase everything you have done. To-do list after to-do list, responsibility after responsibility, self-care act after self-care act – there’s always something to do, something to maintain or fix. Then the wave comes and it’s all gone. One less heartbeat in the world. It’s over.

We live in an era where we get so much help from gadgets and machines – imagine having to hand wash all your clothes for example or having to use an actual iron to straighten your hair! – yet we rarely have time for ourselves. We rarely take the time to question the nature of life and why we’re here. We want to busy because it prevents us from plunging into the dark night of the soul.

Truth is, most of us prefer it that way. Free time can mean emptiness and we aren’t willing to face it. Free time can mean seeing the futility of it all, of all those chores that keep us on the go all the time. It can mean alone time, realizing all relationships inevitably will end, that nothing will stay as is, that this is all just a passing matter. What’s the point in trying so hard, we might think.

So, if all is destined to be replaced, erased, and even forgotten about despite all your efforts, how do you find meaning and purpose in your life?

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Accepting the transient nature of life

Ever found a superbly ripe mango at the grocery store – soft, juicy, and so ready for consumption? You know if you wait a day or two, it will go bad. You also know you wouldn’t be able to eat it before it was ripe – or you could but it wouldn’t be fun.

Life is like a mango. Life and everything in it. It’s a delicious experience to have a ripe relationship and be able to enjoy it. It’s a truly satisfying experience to be at the top of your career ladder – if you’re able to derive pleasure from what you do. Sleep is like mango, too. You can’t force it to ripen when it’s too early, and you can’t have it good when it’s too late.

The only thing we can do in this life is to accept that everything is temporary, transient, changing, never staying the same. Everything goes away and newness comes in. Then the new becomes old and goes away too. Civilizations disappear – what’s one statue or a street name if whole countries and even continents can vanish? You could found an empire and name it after yourself but even that will be gone.

The only way we can have a good life is if we accept that we’re just writing poems in the sand. We do it not for the end result but for the pleasure of it. We want the journey, not the destination – that’s why we come to this world. This world offers journeys – the destinations are just make-believe signs places on the road.


How Do You Find Meaning in Suffering?

If you’re in the middle of a grieving period – perhaps you lost a loved one, or your relationship ended, or you lost a job that meant the world to you – it might be extra difficult to feel like there’s any meaning in any of this, in any of what life offers.

All our “difficult” emotions are like mangoes, too. We must eat them. If we don’t, they’ll decay in the kitchens of our souls and start to smell. They won’t just go away. We must consume then when they begin to ripen. If you’re thinking, there’s no way one can enjoy grief, you’re wrong. Our hearts don’t care about the name of the feeling we’re experiencing. Our hearts just want to feel, period. Feel anything. Be alive – experience the journey in all its seasons.

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Have you ever painted your grief? Sung your hatred? Wrote a story about your jealousy? Ever wondered what would happen if you baked a cake to express shame? Have you given your feelings a chance to express themselves? It’s a rich repertoire you got in your heart – all these feelings have something to contribute. Did you give them a chance, or did you turn a blind eye when they were ripening and then when they were rotting?

Finding meaning after breakup, job loss, change of location etc. can be difficult. You might need to update your self-definition. You might need a period of regret, grieving, anger, rage, maybe even hatred. Eat these emotional mangos before they rot and make you act from a bad place. There’s nothing wrong with psyches – it’s our minds that judge our deep capacity to feel. Our mind only wants us to feel the “good” feelings. But the soul just wants to feel. It just wants to be alive, feel alive – and feelings are the way to do it. Don’t numb them – give them breathing room and more.

From Feeling Lost to Finding Your Place

Finding meaning in what you do – in all the things you do such as your job, home life, hobbies, activities with friends, solitary activities etc. is important. But it is even more important to create that meaning. Life and all existence is inherently meaningless – nothing would go amiss if the world disappeared into another dimension tomorrow. The vast galaxy where this particular Earth found home would continue the same way.

You can create your meaning. You can make that meaning, then break it, then recreate it again as the years go by and as you change. You can update it. No one eats the same mango over and over again – let them ripen, be delicious, throw the pits away, and wait for the new one. Life doesn’t have a predetermined meaning – and this idea might make some people very uncomfortable, but it just is that way.

We are here for the journey. We are here to learn the quality of being alive – not because there’s any fancy meaning to it, but because the soul wants to experience life. The meaning of life is being alive, if anything. Its meaning is itself. It is about eating the mango – it is about being truly alive when we are here. It is about experiencing all emotions, all that life has to offer with an open heart.

As mythologist Joseph Campbell says, “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” Life contains hardship – the same way it can be hard to bite into mangoes. You need to peel it! It’s just how it is – who knows why there’s a crust or a shell on some plants and not on others. It just is. And we just are the way are.

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