The Answer: Individual & Shared Meaning
Written by Dr. Cory Reich, Ph.D., Posted on , in Section Editors Picks
This is the world we live in, if we were not surrounded by it everyday, if we didn’t take it for granted, if the power of its presence or the pain of its absence not so common, we would be shockingly amazed at its brilliance and ability to influence the human condition and the human climate of our planet. While it is the primary concern of every living creature, our understanding of it and our ability to harness the intricacy and brilliance continues to both challenge us and inspire us. For while it is so common, it is as unique in nature, circumstance, and expression as each individual personality and life experience who possess it.
We often view the pattern of life itself as common. We are born, develop, grow in interest, form relationships, do our work, celebrate our joys and successes, as well as cope with tragedies and failures, we age and eventually die. But while life and the human experience is familiar, it does not mean it is simple!
The human spirit has the unique ability to create and believe in dreams, to act independently and work collectively, to feel the desire and need to have value, to accomplish the unimaginable--we are constructed to live with meaning and purpose.
Meaning and Purpose
Although the human consciousness is realized in the substance of the brain, there is more to human consciousness than mere matter. There is a non-reducible, non-material aspect to consciousness. You cannot understand the human experience and condition by taking the material components of the body and reduce it down to manageable parts. Every human being wills to make and thrive in meaning. The human will to form beliefs, make value determinations, and employ personal commitments--itself a key component of our ability to exercise free will--makes us spiritual beings.
While the biological and psychological imperatives primarily concern themselves with meaning survival--being pushed by genetics, it has been said we are pulled and inspired by our will to meaning. Our “purpose” ear, listens for our personal call to feel there is a reason for our existence, a reason for living. Every person possess an internal drive and desire to feel prized and valued as well as having made a difference in at least someone or something!
Its hope is brilliantly expressed at the time of birth and it demands deep reflection at the time of death--indeed, living with meaning is our primary human concern. Its very existence is too improbable and incomprehensible due to the complexity of every human being, for any one person to truly comprehend. Yet, when an individual identifies and lives with meaning and purpose or a group of individuals collectively share meaning and harness human capital to live with purpose, history shows any and all things are possible.
While the compelling desire to live a meaningful life is so familiar, creating and pursuing a meaningful life certainly does not feel simple. Individuals and groups are constantly changing, so too is what matters most. Additionally, no single person can develop and achieve meaning alone but can only do it with the help and support of countless others.
The Key to Understanding Your World!
What is life about? What do people believe in? Upon what do people or organization, even nations place value? What are individuals and human systems committed to? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Is there a God who has a divine purpose for his creations?
The eminent historian Will Durant wrote of the human need “to seize the value and perspective of passing things...We want to know that the little things are little, and the big things big, before it is too late; we want to see things now as they will seem forever--’in the light of eternity.’”
The human spirit seeks to make meaning--to make daily choices which reflect a “reason” a motivated purpose in their choices. The human spirit inherently recognizes that life does posses a higher order, that life is not random or based merely upon chance! That while we may not be able to control many of the external conditions in our life, we are truly the author of our selves and our attitudes in how we relate to life in order to fulfill our life’s purpose.
Are You Listening?
This developmental meaning process is characterized by our willingness, desire, and ability to listen to our inner promptings, a call to establish our purpose thereby determining what life seems to demand in the “meaning of the moment.”
Surely, “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
There is the human need to engage in this process of “inner” meaning and purpose and then making supportive “outer” meaning and purpose decisions--
It is this responsibility to be true to that which is deeply, personally meaningful, that the reason for living stands tall and remains clear despite the external conditions that are imposed upon us.
So what does it mean for a person or human system to make the choice to be true! To make choices governed and fueled by the intentionality of purposeful living?
The developmental process of learning what is most important, then making authentic efforts to represent and live in harmony to it, is the challenge and opportunity of life. We have all come to recognize, that life is not given in death or one single great event, but in every day that we are asked to do it?
The most significant question today is:
What is life asking of you?
Are you listening?
Do you believe in, have value for, and are you committed to your personal call to a meaningful life?
How are you coping with the demands that are challenging your meaning making, seeking, and fulfillment efforts?
It is only through the awareness and guidance of these inner promptings that we understand and become aware of what is most important to us. Our awakening and personal determination provides the clairty in the "meaning of the moment" when conditions in life require a response to act. Our chosen action bearing the message of our inner meanings.
Commitment and Persistence
Emerson reminds us: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
What a person or group determines is most meaningful, the common link itself being shared meaning, is what matters most in guiding purposeful choice. Shared meaning is what fuels persistence. In other words, there needs to be a reason to get back up when we feel life knocks us down!
This commitment and persistence, born by the precious perspective of purposeful living anchored in the future, is what contributes to psychological strength and immune system resilience related to the essential nature of surviving life. Again, the personal sense of value, our reason for living, ones deeply seated feeling of meaning--possesses survival qualities depending on the direction to a “what for,” or a “whom for.”
Collective Meaning Support and Purpose
Meaning creation is the result of a vast family tree, a symphony of shared and supported expression of meaning development and support. We never do our work alone, the conditions and the pursuit of meaning itself is characterized by an elaborate and complex shared connectedness with others.
What life shows us are the the collective power of shared human meanings at work, a family tree defined and nurtured in its growth by shared meaning and meaning support. The collective nature of family, community, even global purpose will be what ultimately sustains this planet and inspires the success of humankind.
People of different cultures and continents work to influence global meaning and a shared purposeful existence. We are all tied together. The family meaning tree is characterized by the exchange of meaning and meaning support. Human necessity and desire for meaning seeks expression every second we are alive, and in every second we feel the interdependent benefit of one another’s meaning efforts.
Meaning creation, development and fulfillment is the result of being connected with one another, the expression of collective participation in a shared purpose and meaning fulfillment will always be dependent upon collaboration.
The individual and collective meaning of our planet is constantly changing and adapting. As a result, meaning creation and fulfillment will always depend upon human systems, who voluntarily work together in a spontaneous configuration of creative human energies, driven by the human necessity of desire to live with meaning. Humankind has the potential to experience enormous benefit from shared meaning cooperation.
Free to interact with one another, if we can leave the creative energies of human kind uninhibited there is no limit to what purposeful living can be developed and what meaning to life we can accomplish.