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Meaningless Life

Posted on 2016.05.25 at 21:12
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I saw a video of Tim Minchin presenting at a graduation in Australia. He started by saying in a round about way that we should not seek meaning in life for it is meaningless to do so. Indeed to search for something that is not intrinsically there already is pointless--and while I am not sure I agree that life is meaningless, I found several of his statements to be quite profound:

"We didn't evolve to be constantly content."

How true. We are told so often that the goal in life is to be happy or find happiness. Those who say such things are not the sages of our times; they fail to understand that happiness is a choice. They also fail to see the relationship between being compassionate, doing the right thing, helping others and feeling loved and valued. Just like those who claim life is unfair...yes it's unfair but that is not the point. The point is what you do with your life, how you let experiences shape you, and who you become. Life isn't just about you; we merely grace the Earth for a short time before we die. Life is about living and we do not live in isolation, nor do we or should we experience only certain emotions and experiences.

Moreover, we did not evolve to take care of solely ourselves. What is the point of excess if it is only hoarded? What is the point of compassion if it is reserved for only certain people? What is the point of living in the world if you never put yourself in someone else's shoes? What is the point of your beliefs if they are used only to justify your isolation, judgement, and lack of action?

Embrace the happy moments, embrace the sad moments; embrace all the experiences for what they are--experiences. They are not you. Let them flow through you like a wave and let them go as easily as they came.

"Understanding you cannot take full credit for your successes, nor blame others for your failures, will humble you and make you more compassionate."

I personally have been told that I need to accept that I did that/caused it in regards to my students. They do not like it when I tell them it was my students who did it. They see it as a lack of confidence and pride whereas I simply see how everything is connected and do not see my "success" as solely my own doing. Anyone who does is either insecure or arrogant, or both. Even when I am alone, I did not accomplish my endeavors alone--I did not pick my gifts, I did not raise myself, I do not live in isolation and all of those around me have played a role in my success. It is ultimately my choice, which is why I do not blame them for my failures, but your arrived at the choice through the experiences and people life has given you.

"Most of society's arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance, we create false dichotomies and then try to argue with two entirely different sets of assumptions."

How many times have we argued heatedly only to realize we actually mean the same thing? We are often so concerned with being understood that we forget to understand ourselves. We are so quick to make assumptions that we forget the possibilities, and we are so quick to judge and compartmentalize that we lose sight of the goal. So many disagreements are the result of this failure to notice the nuances between our words, our ideas, and our goals. If instead we sought to find common ground, how different would our world be?

"The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated."

Stereotypes can be dangerous. Schools often blindly follow the curriculum presented without realizing how it is separating subjects that should naturally be together. My students are shocked to know the languages I speak, that I almost went into medicine instead, and that I love astronomy and physics. The idea that a method of exploring the world should be separate from the method of communicating that wonder is very damaging. Science is no more a religion than music, and music no less intellectual or rigorous than science. Every great advancement has come from the emphasis on both. What are our current curricula teaching?

Anyone who thinks the ones making curriculum decisions are just clueless is woefully naïve. Moreover, the cost of remaining ignorant is dangerously high. Our education systems are producing students who lack compassion, understanding of humanity, critical thinking, perseverance, and strength of character. This is happening because the curricula and tests are geared towards the "most important" skills--reading and writing and math. But those things in and of themselves are meaningless. Science and art are the areas where those are applied and the further we get away from that, the more damage we cause not just to our minds but our humanity as well. We need to work together to better communicate not just how but why it is important...which means we must stop seeing ourselves as separate or superior vs. inferior; to raise children who are whole, just, strong, and innovative we must take action with our curricula, our voting, and professional development as well as our own classrooms; that is what makes a true educator.

"Be a teacher."

He used this in the sense of sharing your passion and studying it so well that there is no way you cannot. It will also teach you a lot about yourself and your passion as well as communication and human nature. It is so important that no matter what we do, we are passionate about it and share it with those around us...this is often when we are at our best and we so often do not share the best of us with others. Think about how moving and motivation it is to see someone who is truly passionate about their craft--it is not isolated to athletes! We must get away from the notion that a sports victory for the underdog or those who survived the harshest of times are the only motivational, or even the most motivational stories. Yes, they are motivational but why are we not as moved when hearing someone speak of cooking, chemistry, or curriculum writing? Be passionate and share your knowledge with the world--it is starving for what only you can give it; be a Fred. (from The Fred Factor) That is how the world changes...

"Define yourself by what you love. We have a tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff. But try to also express your passion for things you love."

This is so difficult, particularly if you are going through rough times. But if we all do this, when we are going through hard times we will help pull each other up rather than becoming frustrated with their suffering. We often get so caught up in what we are not, what they are not, what life is not...that we forget what IS. Our fears, insecurities, pain should not be what defines us; our love is what defines us. We must stop hiding behind the veil of our "not's," and embrace who we have always been and let that light shine forth.

"Respect people with less power than you."

This is a pet peeve of mine. We must be vigilant that no matter how great or small our power, we do not abuse it. It is so easy when we are overwhelmed or frustrated to falter and inadvertently hurt someone in this way...we are all guilty of it at some point, myself included. However, to truly abuse your power and look down upon others is a much graver issue. Everyone is deserving of respect: even if you disagree, even if you are different, even if they are weak...even if you are stressed, even if you are upset. It is not easy to live by these words, but it is imperative that we do.

We should seek to water the seeds of love and compassion in others so that they may bloom in confidence and wisdom, and the more difficult the person seems, the more angry, hurt, distant, or arrogant...the more important it is. Life isn't about just us...that is an illusion. We have the power to make the world a beautiful wonderful place, and it starts by which seeds we water in the hearts of every person we meet.

"There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence--fill it. Life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, by taking pride in whatever you are doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic,...it is an incredibly exciting thing, this one meaningless life of yours."

I will end this by saying this in response: Life is not a choice; Living is a choice. So live, love your life and all life, embrace all there is to experience and be ever mindful of the garden you are watering in not just your own heart, but the hearts of others.

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