Thursday, March 28, 2013

Meaning of Life? Create It!


self portrait 'Rhino Rising' by the author 2010

Staring out onto the early morning sunrise, my mind is a blank slate:  No specific issues of survival, relationship, or body crowding my thoughts.    Bright and cold this winter morning, it hit me:  What if there is no higher purpose?  No mission.  Nothing special to be done?  No ‘gift’ to share.  Just living, here and now with highs and lows and mostly 'in betweens'.  Living in any way that is appropriate to the person, place, or time.  What if this is it? No meaning of life-No heaven or hell-no reincarnation.  No more SEARCHING high and low.  

Personally, I'm maxxed out.  After thirty years, I declare--'No more seeking ultimate meaning and purpose of life.' I finally got what Victor Frankl  said in his classic Man's Search for Meaning--we each make up the meaning of life.  In essence, he asserts we are all artists who create our personal purpose or not. 

At the gym the other day, an acquaintance spontaneously offered his view of the afterlife:  We don’t die, we simply dissolve back into the earth, into the cosmos which is going nowhere from nowhere--No big bang with its beginning and implied ending.  This guy is not a spiritual seeker, but he has lived life.  In his late sixties, he works at a local lumber yard.   Over the years he has regaled me with tales of his youthful adventures running marijuana across the US/ Mexico border, getting caught, years of incarceration, and jailhouse tattoos.  Under his rough and crusty demeanor resides an artist.  He draws and paints a wide range of subjects from nudes to lizards to landscapes:  That is how he makes sense of it all.   He does art and that is his life’s meaning.
Former School Prinicipal Throws Down
'Retirement’, Freedom—‘doing what I want when I want, ’has not been at all like I expected.  How I yearned for this endless vacation. Eventually after leaving the job,  I felt adrift, like the legend of the Flying Dutchman condemned to wander aimlessly for eternity.  I sought something to attach meaning to--a woman, a job, a new title.  I was Ulysses trying to get home and taking many unproductive detours--complete with tempting Sirens and devouring Cyclops--in my quest for purposeIt took years to see that the answer was in meI now get how prisoners often prefer to stay in jail and find a way to return.   It isn’t necessarily self destruction; it is a return to the known, predictable, and manageable. 

Spiritual teachers often say self-less service brings meaning, because giving satisfies, fulfills, and adds meaning to life.  My quest for right service (purpose?) felt like the arc of the covenant—does it exist?  I volunteered a lot when I was in my traditional career.  But now finding a good fit vexed me.  A litany of questions arose with each possibility: Can I learn and grow?  Is it fun?  Will I be around agreeable colleagues?  Will my skill set be utilized?  Is it ‘meaningful? And finally, will I be free to 'innovate?'  Innovation was a pejorative in my old profession These days I don't have to kow tow.  

Then I got it.  There is no perfect service for me without creativity, therefore my purpose is self-expression!  It scares me to the bone, but it waits in the background.  Always ready to respond to the invitation to liberation.  Sometimes I avoid it by escaping into travel, relationships, entertainment, mood altering substances but it doesn't go away.  When I do face the blank canvas, the computer screen, or any activity that calls out my soul, liberation and purpose are close.

That is where I find meaning--in the Creative.  'Retirement' (for that matter anytime) is an ideal time to allow the creative spirit to flourish--no meaning to find, no mission to serve--simple, deeply, freely--create.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Without 'natural' talent I've had painting exhibits, poetry readings, published articles, and studied guitar, drum, and dance.  Although sometimes a torture, the creative act  expresses my uniqueness.  And that is meaningful--to me.   

I invite you to jump into the water of the Creative and like Ulysses ride your ship into wild storms, smooth waves, and peaceful satisfaction.  You have given your gift. 


  1. Hey Ran...good piece! I want to offer a phrase from Buddha...Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
    It seems you're closing in on "contentment"!

  2. Ran, this is my first time here and I enjoyed your post very much, decided to become a follower! I can see that we're on the same wavelength! I've been writing about this, our Third Act in life, and launched Boomer Lit as a new genre, the only one in which my novel (came out last September)truly fits (grin!). Started a group on Goodreads to discuss this genre back in October and now we're over 320 members, come and visit and join us if you feel like it, we'd love to have you with us in this adventure to make Boomer Lit known to the world!

    Incidentally, my novel is called A Hook in the Sky and it's about a retiree-turned-artist to the dismay of his much younger wife. They fight over art, but what is at stake is their marriage. They separate, other women enters his life, he keeps painting, seeking himself...Can he find happiness, can his marriage be saved? Well, you get the idea, I think the book might interest you, it raises all the questions you raise here!

    Link to the Boomer Lit Goodreads Group: The group is open to the public, all welcome!