Recently I read a novel with a number of young, very bright characters. For much of the book, though, they find life meaningless and empty and it drives them to spend most of their lives partying and taking drugs, as a way of relieving the tedium. They value very little. And in the few days since finishing the book I've come to realize that I hate this attitude more than any other. To me life always has meaning and value, no matter how bad it gets. To me the meaning of life is - meaning - being a part of life, a participant in it, a lover of that which creates.
I offer myself as an example, because to an outside observer my life might seem to have little meaning and little value. I live fairly isolated without a lot of social contacts. I have no romantic relationship. I am, in fact, a steroeotype, a spinster librarian with a cat. Yet there has never been a time I felt my life had no meaning. My job may not change the world, but it is one I like and think I've finally gotten to be good at. It may not change the world, being a librarian, but maybe it helps someone else do better work who does have the capacity to change the world. In that there is meaning, and there is value. I work with people I hold dear, and in that there is meaning and value. I withdrew from most social contacts after enduring levels of emotional pain that almost killed me. I survived, and in that there is meaning and value. I survived thanks to dear friends who helped, including one who was simply there, to see to it that I did not end. In that there is meaning and value. I stopped believing in having to have someone else to complete me, and that has become a happiness in and of itself. My social contacts may not be many, but to me they are golden, and are with both people who live near me and I can be a physical part of their life, and people from afar with whom I can interact by the miracles of modern telecommunications, people who are no less dear to me for only being seen once in several years. In that there is meaning and value. I am so surrounded by the outputs of human creativity in the forms of books, tv, movies, and music, that I can never get bored and I can experience life through making connections to the imaginations, the minds, hearts, spirit, and experiences of others. In that there is meaning and value. I care about the problems of the world, though they overwhelm me and I don't often have much to give to help change them. I like to think that sharing items that express a passion for changing lives for the better has its own meaning and value.
And I am but one small life. If there is meaning and value in me, there is meaning and value times the billions of people in this world. There is meaning and value in the natural world. My cat lives an even more circumscribed life than I do, yet she has great value for me. The natural world has beauty that lets spirits soar, and that has value. In the last few generations, we have come to understand how close to infinite the unverse is. Some people believe that makes us small and insignificant. I've never understood that. The great universe fills me with awe, and seeing its beauty I feel a part of it, and in that I find meaning and value.
I find meaning and value in that people feel connected to something greater than themselves, and find it matters little to me whether it is a God or Goddess, a deity that started the universe running and then stood back and watched it unfold, or a deity that takes an part in the world. Equally I value the people who believe in no deity, but find that a reason to be care more for thier fellow humans and the world because there's no one else to fix things. For those who through spirituality find an experience of love, and in my own life I sometimes have, I am in awe.
I find meaning and value in the heroes, and the great artists and creators. I could start naming them and fill books with their names. We'll always have Shakespeare. Galileo. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu. Margaret Sanger, whom I've thought of often this week and how she was motivated by not being able to stand seeing so many women die in childbirth, or living in dire poverty from too many mouths to feed. Jon Stewart and other comedians who use humor as a weapon against cluttered thinking. Van Gogh. Those who have created fictional worlds that connect us more deeply to what it means to be human. Dr. Who. Sherlock Holmes. In each of these there is meaning and value, and how can anyone be bored in a world where there is so much creative output? Ballet. Symphonies. Rock and roll.
And maybe as many would see my life as a failure, I feel especially for the failures. Those who were in too much pain to survive. I was almost there, But something in my core believes that nothing and no one is ever lost. That if nothing else, memories survive. So that if this planet reaches the ultimate failure, and dies, of its own pollution or war, we were here. We existed. We had meaning and value. We'll always have Shakespeare - and Paris.