The meaning of life – Finding purpose

When I was little I had a feeling that unless I was there to perceive it, the world did not exist. It ended and was created anew every time I closed and opened my eyes. In other words, I thought myself to be the center of the universe, and not only that, but also its creator. Self-absorbed much? Of course, I knew intellectually, with my rational mind, that this was not the truth. But when you are a child, a feeling is so much more important than a rational thought.

I remember the first time I visited India. I was 17 and had never been outside Europe before. Landing in the multicultural and multicolored chaos that is India was a violent attack on my Norway-adjusted senses, to say it mildly. It felt as though I had landed on a different planet. This could not possibly be the same world I had grown up in. After returning to Norway I got that same feeling again that I had experienced as a small child. India must surely seize to exist when I am not there. It was impossible to believe that that exotic world was still going about its day on the other side of the globe.

What I later found so intriguing about this particular type of orientation was the consecutive conclusion that every single human being must, at least at some point of time, feel the same way. This was a fascinating thought! That each and every one of us is a universe all on our own, made up of silently verbalized thoughts, feelings, mental images, and subconscious impulses. Later, while diving into the wonderful authorship of Charles Dickens I learned that he truly was the master of tapping into all these different universes. In one of his books, I can’t remember exactly which one, he states that each human being that lives, has lived and will live, is a story, a uniquely fantastic story with a unique plot and characters. Isn’t that a magnificent thought? Imagine, none of us, not a single one of us who lives, has lived, or will live, is the same. Mind blowing, isn’t it?

And yet, we are all made up of the same stardust. Our minds, bodies and souls are constructed by the same building blocks. We are, in essence, one. This, to me, is the beautiful human paradox, we are both sameness, oneness, unity, and absolute and irrevocably unique. There is not a single person in the world who has the exact same thoughts-feelings-experiences, i.e. story, as you. None. This insight makes all of us relevant to the history of the life of human kind. If we are all unique, we are all interesting, we all have some unique and valuable contribution to make.

Now, here we reach the essence of this article’s over-ambitious title. When there is not two of the same in a circumstance, that makes each part important and unconditionally valuable. Speaking plainly, we all have unique creativity, thoughts, imagination, insights and talents, and that makes us important to human kind and its history. Exploring and developing this uniqueness, expanding and narrating our story, gives meaning, perhaps the only meaning we really need.

I often hear people stating that individualism is selfishness and self-centeredness, the opposite of cooperation, generosity and compassion. I beg to differ. Abraham Maslow was the psychologist who gave us the famous pyramid of human needs, at the bottom of the pyramid lies the solid foundation of life; what we cannot live without, which is food, water and shelter. At the top of the pyramid we find self-actualization. This is, to Maslow, the peak of human sophistication. When society has fulfilled all our other needs, this is what tops the cake. This pyramid has been criticized to be a very Western concept (Maslow was American). Perhaps it is, perhaps not.

When I was a pupil in primary school, self-development was a part of our curriculum, a small part (about an hour a week), but nevertheless a part. We learned to pin-point our strengths and weaknesses, explore our talents and analyze our personality traits. And more importantly, we learned to use this self-insight to expand our empathy. We learned that our mental health is determined by outer circumstances, to say it simply, if we had not been born in safe, peaceful and rich Norway, our heads and our hearts would, metaphorically speaking, look quite different, and our subconscious impulses would compel us to behave quite differently. And here, in my opinion, lies the key to why individualism is not just a big ego-trip.

To believe in oneself and the value of one’s life in the world, regardless of social status, regardless of our relationships, our physical attractiveness and our socio-economic background, we must first learn to trust that we have something valuable to bring to the table. That is self-actualization. Be it on an international scale rippling through an entire world, or on a smaller scale by contributing and making a difference in a friendship, in the family or in a local community. Self-actualization is a constant noun that cannot be affected by a wavering adjective.

To be human is to matter, and to me, the more I explore my own unique humanity, the more I can matter. In other words, the more uniqueness I bring to the table, the more difference I can make in the world. And if there is one fact that the history of all life screams loud and clear, it is that we are, as individuals and as a unity, on the move. Life wants to realize all its potential. And to me, that is the meaning of life.

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True Happiness

Your worth cannot be increased
By doing good deeds.
Doing good deeds can only increase
Your own sense of joy and purpose;
Knowing you have made a difference
In someone’s life.
But if you do good deeds to prove
Your worth, to harvest acceptance
And acknowledgement from others,
Then you will never be satisfied or content.
True happiness comes from acknowledging
Your own worth, obtained just by being alive.
There is no greater peace than
When you can accept this.

Summer Postcards

Have you ever sailed across the shore along the Archipelago of a white and blue summer country, gliding to a non-existent southern breeze while sails flap lazily in chorus with the persistent cry of fishing seagulls? If not, then you are missing out.

There are always houses snuggled against the shoreline. Little cottages made of wood and painted white or farmer’s red, but always with blue doors. To keep away the witches. Sunbathers and little swimmers wave at you from emerald green lawns or little stone-fixed piers. You will get the feeling of cruising along the rich man’s riviera, but no, people are much too friendly for that.

The ocean stays a constant blue in the low sunshine. A seal or perhaps a miniature dolphin will pop its head up and stare at you curiously. But other than that, it is you and the still blue, sparkling together in the warmth of summer.

Even at night, while you are docked safely to port, the golden sheen will continue to play upon the gilded currents, rocking you to sleep. And nocturnal seabirds will hunt and sing and dive into those golden ripples all night through.

And when you wake from your short, but deep summer night sleep, dawn has already beaten you to it, and is ready to greet you with a spray painted mural of lavender and rose quartz swirling together in a dizzying whisk of pastel hues. All you have to do then is make yourself a cup of strong coffee and drink it all in.

If you are lucky, an islander might invite you to strawberry and cream and a glass of champagne. They are friendly like that, the locals. You just have to give them a smile and a gentle hello. They never intrude on someone’s privacy.

And as you sit there, sipping collector’s champagne in the late afternoon sun, make sure to take a look around. Even animals go away for the summer here, to enjoy the fresh sweet summer grass and watch rainbows and sun showers and make new friends. Just like you. Sit back, relax, and take your time to just be alive, to be with the natural beauty of this quiet summer world and feel content to be just where you are.

A Gathering of Hope

We all get sold this idea that life is some kind of beautiful fantasy, then when we learn that that is not true, we hurt, we hurt badly. But we push through that pain. Every day.

When our dreams are shattered and we learn that they will never come true, we make new dreams. When we fully understand the concept of our mortality, we learn to make each day count, to not waste time on things that don’t matter.

When we lose someone we love for the first time, we learn to love the ones that are still there harder, to appreciate them and celebrate our relationship with them.

When family is denied us, or taken away from us, we create our own family. We learn to share out our love to those who need it, with an elderly living alone, with children without parents, with abandoned or threatened animals.

We find happiness despite the pain, and that is what makes human beings so darn strong. And amazing. And awe inspiring. We all live with pain every day. All of us. But we do just that, we live with it. Fully and happily. That is what makes a human being so great.