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9June 22, 2010The Meaning of Life

Posted Jun 22 2010 12:00am

As every reader of my blog knows, my life is complicated, full of twists and turns, and extremely busy. (That is why you come here and even an entire pot of coffee won’t allow it to make any sense either – alcohol too.) Two summers ago, I was pregnant with my toddler who turns two in September and a part of me wonders where the time went. Ten summers ago, I boarded a plane from Jerusalem, Israel with my now ten year old leaving another important part of me behind – a part that I relive often in black and white and not color. On July 6, 2000, I left an abusive marriage without my three daughters – not because I wanted to but because I had to. September marks two years since knowing about RA and Fibromyalgia after nearly ten years of misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. I did not receive the official diagnosis until before Thanksgiving but it was a few days after giving birth that I learned that my life was forever changed (negative and positive). If anything, I have changed and so have my husband and my children. It is not a significant, but we are somewhat different than we were two years ago. My illnesses play a part in that and those subtle differences are not things we can ever get back.

For centuries, some of the greatest minds have tried to define the “meaning of life” as if it was some cosmic force. They should have just asked a small child, a parent, a grandparent, a 100 year old man or woman, a World War II or Vietnam vet, a funeral director, or even a doctor (or midwife) who brings babies into the world. Asking the meaning of life means asking questions like: What is life all about? Why are we here? What is the meaning of it all? Speculation from some of the greatest philosophical, scientific, and theological minds has led to more questions than answers because, in part, the answer depends on various cultural and ideological backgrounds. It is also a mixture of religion and philosophy especially in terms of existence, consciousness and happiness. It also touches on symbolic meaning, ontology (the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations), value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, conceptions of and the existence of God, the soul and the afterlife. (There is a scientific contribution, but it’s usually indirect.) For most of us, the meaning of life has to do with ultimate reality and the perception of ourselves and its relationship to the world around us.

Plato believed in the nature of goodness and absolute justice. He felt that humans had a duty to pursue good and without reason to do so. Aristotle, a student of Plato, argued ethics and virtue and he felt that without these, people could not pursue goodness or justice. Socrates touched on moral actions and how moral actions affected the human soul. Immanuel Kant preached moral obligations and the duty that we have to others to behave with good ethics and morals and that we should always do the right thing even when the right thing isn’t the easiest choice. We have all been taught some version of the Golden Rule so we all know right from wrong and religion has played a part of the meaning of our lives whether major or minor. In the 19th century, Jeremy Bentham preached utilitarianism and told us that good should bring the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people (collectivism). The 20th and 21st centuries brought with it a variety of views, many that focused on the needs of individuals instead of society as a whole (individualism vs. collectivism).

For each person, the meaning of life is different. William Blank said that the meaning of life is: “A brief generic overview of why you are here, what your experience is all about and what it all means.” Perhaps it is simple as Blank’s definition or even more complex.

Have you seen the Monty Python’s movie, “ The Meaning of Life ?” It is divided into several chapters (life stages from birth to death) and it portrays life in an absurd and comical way, but somewhat realistic. Part 1 is titled “The Miracle of Birth” and involved a lady giving birth and being ignored by her doctors. Eventually, the doctors come in with a whole bunch of medical equipment and then, the baby arrives. Part 1 has a second part that depicts a Roman Catholic couple who cannot afford to feed their 63 children and the reason they had 63 was because the church forbids birth control. They start selling off their offspring for medical research. (Did I tell you that it is a comedy? Well, I just did.) This part also touches on taboo topics such as contraception, sexual intercourse, and masturbation. Part II of the movie is titled “Growth and Learning” and talks about life’s lessons including sex education. Part III, “Fighting Each Other,” touches on the concepts of war while it pokes fun at modern attitudes of survival of the fittest. The next part is called “The Middle of the Film,” where the stereotypes in society are discussed including racial profiling, sexual preferences, and sexual attitudes. Part VI is called “Middle Age” and features a middle-aged couple on vacation in a bizarre resort who order a conversation about the “meaning of life.”

Part V is called “Live Organ Transports” which pokes fun at card carrying organ donors, people stealing organs, and a businessman who suggests two philosophies: the meaning of life and that people should wear more hats. Part VI is split into two stages: we are first introduced to Eric Idle performing the song “Isn’t It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?”. There is also a heavy set man who eats a huge meal and blows up. The second part is called “Part VI-B” and contains two philosophical monologues, the first delivered by a cleaning lady singing about how she is down on her luck. She makes a racial comment and has a bucket of vomit dumped on her and she is forced to apologize. The second monologue is delivered by a French waiter who walks through the streets to the house he grew up in and delivers a personal message: “The world is a beautiful place. You must go into it and love everyone. Try to make everyone happy, and bring peace and contentment everywhere you go. And so I became a waiter…. Well, it’s not much of a philosophy I know, but well… f**k you! I can live my own life in my own way if I want to! F**k off!” “Part VII: Death” opens with a funeral setup. It shows a criminal convicted of making gratuitous sexist jokes in a film, killed in a manner of his choosing and also a group of people visited by the Grim Reaper.

“The End Of The Film”, in which the female character from “The Middle of the Film” concludes the movie by telling us what the “meaning of life” really is (introducing it by saying “It’s nothing very special”): “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

This meaning seems simple – doesn’t it? Despite the craziness in between, there “it’s nothing very special.” You can visit a 100 life coaches and they work with you to find out what the meaning of life is for you, but all reality, the meaning is anything we want it to be. We decide through our actions and our abilities. I am a deep thinker as many of you know, and sometimes I find myself questioning my actions and even my abilities. Many people accept the cards they have been dealt, but not me and I am not sure that I can. My grandmother died in her late 90s. She saw grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren before her death. Maybe, she knew the meaning of life. I guess I should have asked her while she was alive instead of sitting here trying to ponder it.

Lately, I have been thinking about what I can do to better a person; a better mother and wife, a better employee, a better daughter, a better sister and aunt, a better friend, and an overall better human being. I also want to less stressed and healthier. The medications I take play on my emotions because they affect how I feel physically and mentally. They also make me gain weight and because, often times I ache everywhere, it is hard to be active. I realized this morning that I don’t want to gain anymore weight, I want to be able to be active again, and I want to feel healthy mentally and physically. With all the chaos in my life, it seems impossible, doesn’t it?

I heard back from the place I interviewed and they told me that they are still working to make a decision so I still have a chance. If not, I know that I have to cut my hours and put a plan in action before I talk to my supervisor. I know a lot of things including that patience and waiting are parts of my life that I don’t really like. By the way, I disclosed my health conditions in the interview. I told them about my advocacy work and how regardless of RA and FMS, I continue to live my life. I figured I would let the cards fall as they may. My condition is at point were I can still hide it, but it does not mean I will be able to hide it a year from now or even six months from. Growing up, my mom had to keep reminding that the best things come to those who wait especially when waiting led to my squirming and fidgeting because I just couldn’t stand still, and I haven’t changed. I hate sitting in traffic, I hate waiting for others to complete projects, and I hate waiting for news. I know that my inability to be patient is why I choose to contemplate the meaning of life. Others believe that life is about chance and fate. I believe everything – who we are and who we become – is about actions and hard work. The hard part is trying to figure who we are, who we want to become, and how we achieve what we want.

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