Cate Montana: The Two Answers to the Meaning of Life

CM orange Sized for 8x12 - 11x14 paper printingExcellence Reporter: Cate, what is the meaning of life?

Cate Montana: There are two distinctly different answers to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” And perhaps the best way to illustrate both is by using the following analogy.

Each piece of furniture, every painting, all the pictures and decorations in my home  have a very specific meaning to me. I look at the painting by my kitchen door, for example, and think, “Ah, yes … I remember buying that painting of three Spanish women turning into butterflies from the Ecuadorian shaman I went to study with up in the mountains outside Quito with two other women friends. It was after we’d engaged in a very intense, all-night Huachuma fire ceremony. The painting called out to me the next morning and I bought it as a reminder of our transformation on that trip.”

The painting has profound meaning for me. But for a stranger walking in the door it means nothing … unless, perhaps, it re-minds the person of something in their own life … and then meaning is created from another vantage point.

The same is true of life. My life has meaning because I give it meaning just like I give the painting meaning. But in and of itself? Life has no meaning at all. Which shocks and disturbs most people because the human mind is a meaning-making machine. “We must have meaning!” screams the mind. But life does not require meaning. It is sufficient unto itself—just as the painting on my wall is sufficient.

It exists. I exist. You exist. Life is. Why can’t that be enough?

It is more than enough! But this kind of answer doesn’t satisfy the voracious mind which chronically seeks meaningless conversation “about” things. Words words words … they lead us away from direct experience into the Land of Concepts. They distance us and fill us with stories. And that’s fine. But if you really want to know life forget about looking for meaning and just live.


~Cate Montana, author of The E Word: Ego, Enlightenment & Other Essentials (January 2017) and Unearthing Venus: My Search for the Woman Within, Cate is a journalist and explorer of inner and outer worlds. She has a master’s degree in psychology and writes about consciousness and evolution.

Copyright © 2016 Excellence Reporter

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