Think Less, Do More

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” ― Albert Camus

Albert Camus was a French philosopher, author and journalist

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Since the question, what is the meaning of life, is obviously unsettled Camus may well be correct on that conclusion that searching for it is counterproductive.

Recently I heard a social worker say that people would be happier if they “thought less and acted more”.

This would indicate that the best conclusion is that more meaning is found in what we do than what we think about.

*Does the Question have an Answer?

See essay, “Was Rudyard Kipling asking or answering this question?”

See essay, “The Answer is the Question”

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Was Kipling asking or answering the question of Meaning?

Was Rudyard Kipling answering or asking the question, what is the meaning of life, when he wrote his poem “If” ?

He was 31 years old when he wrote this poem intending to help his son understand life but the central idea in the poem contains a lesson about life and human nature.

Poetry can serve more than one purpose and we the reader can enjoy the poem and find our purposes in it. The patterns that have put emotions into words can evoke different emotions in those that read the words. Kipling may have only intended to have his words impact his son but the use of the word “you” makes the poem seem like it is addressed to anyone who reads it.


See the Poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling

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What Gives Meaning ?

“LIfe’s Meaning Essays” is a newer section for this blog that mostly has essays that relate to the question the title asks.

The prior essay, The Human Condition, suggests that meaning is expanded by connections to others and their lives.

Scroll down. Check out the other posts.

By the way this thought I found made me think more about the question of meaning.

One answer might be that life is about what is between B & D - birth and death. Of course, what is between b & d is c C is for choices.  (Good Answer it seems)

All living things matter and give meaning to life. Nature presents us with art and adds to life’s meaning.

 

The Human Condition, by Brent M. Jones

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A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, but even so all we have is “right now” and it is our own life that seems to be the clearest to us.

Tony Hillerman wrote about the Navajo people and their traditions. He said “we are all connected” It can make a real difference to us to understand the lives of others, even a thousand others. .

We expand our own experience by finding more about the human experiences of others. To do so we need to know about the characteristics, key events and situations which compose the essentials of their lives: their struggles, conclusions, emotional responses, aspirations, and even their deaths.   

Authors are the gatekeepers to the lives of others and they provide us with the pathway to this knowledge.

Harold Bloom, a well-known professor of literature at Yale, has written many books about interesting authors. His book "Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human claims that Shakespeare's vocabulary of 22,000 words is so infinite that it proves he knew pretty much everything there is to know about humankind. That means, according to Bloom,  that he “invented the human”, or at least a more complete definition of humanness.

In an interview published in 1995, Bloom reflected on the great authors of the Western world, stating: “We must read and study Shakespeare, Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes and the Bible, at least the King James Bible.” He said of these authors that “they provide an intellectual, I dare say, a spiritual value which has nothing to do with organized religion or the history of institutional belief” They tell us things we couldn’t possibly know without them, they reform and make our minds stronger. They make us more vital."

Bloom found more about our humanness from the authors themselves rather than from the stories and writings.

Shakespeare’s quotes resonate with our lives today. I like these quotes among so many good ones.

There is nothing good or bad, only thinking makes it so. - Hamlet

Hell is empty and the devils are here. - William Shakespeare

Though this be madness yet there is method in it. - William Shakespeare

The meaning of life is much more than our own personal daily experiences and can include much from those other lives that we read about.  For example we learned things from Hyenseo Lee who told to us in her book, “The Girl with Seven Names, Escape from North Korea”, that I am glad I can have some awareness of without having to have had the personal experience myself. Much comes to us in the nonfiction accounts of other people.

Even fiction brings us insight into our humanness. The suspense and twisting plots of fiction writer Lee Child’s in his Jack Reacher series takes us places we would never go and into situation we would never find ourselves in. We find excitement, empathy and emotional experience in fiction. Literary critics often label a piece of writing as literature - and not pulp fiction - if it tries to describe the "human condition.

Poetry can challenge the status quo in our lives and by doing so improve the human condition of all people. An example of this is in the work of May Angelou who fought for equality and for humanity writing about the plights and triumphs of a marginalized people.

The real meaning of our lives is the sum total of our own individual experience.

Finding Meaning Through Reading and Your Own Look Back

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Stories of outstanding leaders, who look back at their own lives and tell of how their success came because of the trails and setbacks they had in life are not uncommon. It is obvious that they didn't see the value of the problems when they occurred but only after years of rethinking the events. Their self-acceptance of their challenges followed years later.

Previously I wrote an article titled “As You Look at Your Own Life Story You See Yourself Differently” which included background research from Julie Beck's Atlantic Magazine’s 2015 article titled “Life’s Stories”. The sub title of her article states: “How you arrange the plot points of your life into narrative shapes who you are and is a fundamental part of being human.” Your own story is your life and understanding life bests start with that.

Tolstoy got bogged down with understanding the "meaning of life" and suggested that who we are was really the essence of life. Finding meaning is no small task.

Literature is important in everyday life because it connects individuals with larger truths and ideas in a society. Literature creates a way for people to record their thoughts and experiences in a way that is accessible to others, through fictionalized accounts of the experience.

Look over the book reviews posted here often and ponder what to read next.