Monday, May 11, 2015

Think About It, or, The Meaning of Life

In "The Strange Adventure," one of my own favorite stories from my book, Seventy Stories and a Poem, the story concludes by noting that "life is about meaning, not experience." In that context, the conclusion refers to the way we interpret what happens to us--that is, what meaning we give to an experience.

But I'd like to back up from there to note that finding meaning in an experience must be a deliberate act of thought. It is quite possible to  have many experiences in life without ever finding meaning in them, simply because meaning was never sought. Experiences must be processed, thought about, interpreted, before they will yield a meaning that can be added to our understanding about life and thereby add to our personal wisdom.

It's not simply by having lots of experiences that we grow wiser or increase our understanding about life or ourselves; it's by processing those experiences in light of moral contexts, analogous situations, and broader implications that we gain something solid and meaningful.

Next time you are sitting with a friend having a cup of coffee or a dish of ice cream, ask, "What does this mean?" and see what you can discover--about friendship, life, blessings, habits, will power, pleasure and pain, and so on. Don't live a meaningless life.

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