The meaning of life rests with each of us, in each of our lives to carve out. We can take a nihilist stance that says our bodies/souls are the result of a cosmic throw of the dice, a random conflagration of proliferating atoms warmed mysteriously by the ancient sun. Or a religious stance: we are inherently sinful (the Fall) and must work our way out. Or a spiritual stance: we are spiritual beings in physical bodies having physical experiences. We are placed here by God for a divine, unique mission. The task is to discover, learn, and grow spiritually.
Or any stance in between.
For me, the meaning of life, emphatically, is not accumulation: possessions, money, awards, leading roles, accolades, children, buildings, books. That road leads to the Diderot effect: “Now that I have this, I need the better that.”
Or our amassing leads to the “So what?” factor: “I acquired ______, ______, and ______. So what?” An endless path leading only to octopusing paths of “So whats?” Satisfaction. fulfillment, and the happiness we crave are always just out of fingertip reach.
Whatever we choose to believe—whether it will threaten to sink us or buoy us—we must ask, What to do with my life? What meaning to give to it? How will one philosophy or another help me answer that ever-elusive and plaguing question about my time here?
I believe, with many others, that we are more than our brains and bodies and that, as spiritual beings on a human journey, we are connected to the larger Whole/Source. With this conviction and understanding, when we ask and listen inside, we are guided. The answers appear to everything we need—from a shopping bag to a research resource to a sudden miraculous lawsuit settlement.
And whatever our answers, we are living here now.
We chose this life and came with a purpose, talents, and desires. The meaning of our lives lies in discovering our purpose; cultivating, using, and giving our talents; and satisfying our good desires.
With our search for the meaning comes the twin question: “Why am I here?” We are here to each find our life’s meaning. What excites you? What makes your heart sing? What eviscerates time? What fills your body, heart, and mind with joy and richness? What makes you say, “This is my meaning; this is the life I want to live”?
The more we listen to our Inner Self and use our talents, the more we can fill ourselves with joy, give to and love others. My story: From childhood, I had the need to write. After years of resisting and struggling, I broke through and finally allowed myself the deliciousness of writing. I had no thought of saving the world, or even a single animal. I knew I had to write or fall into a self-condemnation and self-loathing which would only grow with the years and a despair I’d never recover from.
My goal was not to help others but to help myself. Gradually, one page, one piece at a time, I wrote what I had to: short stories, poems, articles on writing craft and motivation, on spiritual experiences and insights, and, in combination with my coaching and editing practice for graduate students, on academic topics. People responded, and one said,“You are changing yet another human being’s life for the better.” I was gratified and grateful for having identified and obeyed where the meaning of my life led.
My self-interest, like a stone thrown into the lake, creates ripples of meaning and giving to others in an inevitable matching overflow. Life is a learning, a stretching, a softening, a loving, an opening, a letting go, a listening, an allowing and falling, a trusting, and a rejoicing.
~Noelle Sterne, author, editor, writing coach and consultant, spiritual counselor, nurturer, bolsterer, motivator, reassurer, and handholder for mainstream and scholarly writers, Noelle Sterne is the author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles. She has published over 400 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, InnerSelf, Inside Higher Ed, Inspire Me Today, Mused, Pen and Prosper, Ruminate, Textbook and Academic Authors Association, Transformation Coaching Magazine, Romance Writers Report, Two Drops of Ink, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.
With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings.
Going after another dream, Noelle is now completing her first novel. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com
Excellence Reporter © 2018 Noelle Sterne