This topic is extremely relevant both for the ‘normal’ overthinkers and also the highly sensetive minds most often struggling with deep Existential crisis aided by dissociation, derealization or even psychosis. We humans are the only known specie that’s perpetually in search of ‘meaningfulness’ of our existence. Every other species somehow know how to ‘be’ in whatever diurnal routine without getting caught up in quests for meaningfulness. Animals are born, hunt for a living, procreate, die. Plants carry out photosynthesis daily simply to stay alive. Humans alone, behind every ‘being’ or ‘doing’, endlessly seek the ‘Greater’ purpose. Without getting into metaphysical discussions, tackling this ‘quest verging on obsession’ simply from a psychological perspective, it’s safe to say this relentless pursuit of meaningfulness can be both a boon and a curse.
On one hand, a mere existence without a bigger picture often prove to be detrimental to our physical and mental health. A short sighted purposeless life causes physical risks of sloth, obesity, hormonal imbalances and lack of adequate sustainability. Mentally it can give rise to symptoms such as lack of motivation and focus, apathy, low mental energy verging on depression and in extremes, suicidal tendencies. Having meaningfulness in life triggers the human brain with necessary chemicals that gear both the body and mind for a better immunology, metabolism, mental skills, concentration and in turn higher rate of survival. Yet on the flipside, an excessive obsession with ‘purpose’ can drive not only the body to workaholism and over-exhaustion of nonstop performance but can also push our Mind into the deadly trap of existential crisis, anxiety and frustration.
It is a curious case of trying to be sure of light when one is visually challenged. What Is the source of all meaning? What gives purpose to human life? Does it begin and end with human beings or is there a greater purpose? Well, there is no one correct answer and it simply depends on how each individual perceives their subjective reality. And exactly in that lies the trap of a dog chasing its own tail.
How is it related to mental health
Countless people operate around these questions, internally going bonkers without any concrete answer. Consciously or unconsciously, all of us are driven by this one question and all other outward life choices we make are results of this one inherent instinctive quest. But because human perception of reality is always in flux, it’s a never ending puzzle. Back in the Renaissance meaning of human existence was rooted in pursuit of aesthetics and knowledge. Come the World Wars and the postmodern perception shifted completely to a meaningless nihilistic absurdity of human existence. In today’s metamodern society we are swearing by Humanism. It’s endless. Our planet has about 4200 official religions and countless other schools of philosophy. Yet, be it Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Animism or New Age spirituality, Socialism, Existentialism or Humanism, through each of these we are only trying to answer one question – What is the meaning of my life? And I assure you, you’ll NEVER be able to arrive at one irrefutably verifiable conclusion. AND, this unanswered question is no frivolous a topic in mental health. The exponential rise in mental health cases, the prevalent cultural neurosis, relationship addictions, substance abuse and a whole range of other mental disorders I believe are somewhere rooted in this increasing lack of meaningfulness in one’s life.
So How do I Know THE Answer?
Answer is – you’ll NEVER know!
Christopher Nolan, recently in one of his interviews said, “..thequestion of whether that’s a dream or ( ) real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.” And then he finally answers the raging debate on the iconic last shot of Inception, the spinning top, “He (Cobb) didn’t really care any more, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid.”.. “I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with – they are subsets of reality.”
It is crucial then in our pursuit of meaning that we foremost become comfortable with ‘never knowing with certainty’. Be it the nature of reality or purpose of human life on earth. Until we can mentally accept that we are ‘limited’ bio-organic life forms (if I am to avoid a more metaphysical phrase ‘limited three dimensional beings’) and that howmuchever science and technology progress we can NEVER fully comprehend Existence in its Entirety, we will keep falling into the trap of obsessive existential dilemmas. Being born to Hindu parents, brought up by Brahminical surrogates, later converted to Christianity, reconverted to Hinduism, even later a disgruntled and bitter atheist, constantly seeking the meaning behind being born in a broken home and suffering severe mental health disorders and traumas, I too fell prey to this Impossible Pursuit of Certainty of my life’s meaning. Only decades later I was taught the secret key by my mental health expert and life coach that brought some sense of relief.
How to Solve This Puzzle?
Each individual Mind has its own drives and motivations. Some of them are healthy and productive. Some others physically and mentally detrimental, hence unhealthy. And since one can never be ‘sure’ of the ‘Ultimate meaning’ of our lives, the only solution is to Consciously ‘choose’ one version of it from the entire gamut of answers blowing in the wind. To ‘choose’ one that works for you the best!
How does one choose? A simple way is to do a checklist of one’s personal history, values, motivations. For example, coming from a broken home and a mental health survivor I chose to find ‘meaning’ in helping other survivors and Also as a worldview chose the concept of Souls journeying through this world towards their final return Home to the Pure Consciousness. Now. Is this verifiable? Am I certain this is the Only Meaning? Certainly not! But it works for my subjective motivations and drives. If your personal motivation works better with a theistic meaningfulness in believing in the Second Coming of Christ so that it gives you purpose to lead a more functional and humane life, why not? If you deeply vibrate with Nature and pantheistic meaningfulness, as you devote your life to environmental activism in a healthy frame of mind, so be it! In fact, if being a confident hardcode atheist believing only in randomness and no higher purpose works well for you inspiring you to follow the positive humane meaningfulness in Nihilistic Existentialism, contributing to human species before your bio-organic body stops existing forever, jolly well embrace that! Because to take the certainty of your idea of meaningfulness to an undeniable, final conclusion is impossible. But also, the other CRUCIAL point to remember is that once you’ve chosen what definition of meaningfulness works best for you, to not get into negating or questioning another’s chosen definition. Even if that ‘other’ claims it as an all pervasive Ultimate meaning. For that is again the trapdoor to conflict, confusion and endless attempts to verify the impossible.
It’s like you touching a tree trunk and calling it the Only meaningful thing while another touches its leaves and defines it as the Only Reality (while, for all we may know, or not know, it could well be touching different parts of an orange flying sperm whale wearing a leafy hat! Pardon me this anecdote if it’s too much to digest.)
The ONLY prerequisite to determine what gives ‘meaningfulness’ to your life is to ascertain whether that version you choose is making you more functional, productive and healthy or is it proving detrimental? For example, if your Mind cannot digest random disconnected human existence with No inherent meaningfulness and yet it tries to choose let’s say Nihilism as your worldview, high probability you’ll end up bitter, frustrated, disillusioned and drawn towards unhealthy lifestyles of depression, addictions and reckless living. So, we need to ‘choose’ our own definition of meaning and greater purpose, but with wisdom to know what aids our mental and physical growth, while also absolutely not judging the validity of someone else’s choice as what works best for them. In that alone lies the answer to our part-motivating part-dangerous relentless pursuit of a meaningful life.
Take Care, dear Mind
© & Author : Nivedita Deysbrook, 2016
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