Excellence Reporter: Joanne, what is the meaning of life?
Joanne Fedler: It’s to wake up. It’s to awake from the idea that we are separate from other people. It’s to remember that though we seem to be here as ourselves, we are not here for ourselves.
We are here for other people.
For me, the meaning of life has to do with understanding the way in which my life is connected to other people’s existence and that everything that I have been given has not been given to me – it is not just for me. Everything that has been given to me is something I need to find a way to extend into the wider world and that comes with everything that has been given to me.
Every privilege from the privilege of my able-bodiedness, all the senses that I have, the access that I’ve had to education and opportunities, the access that I’ve had to publishers, the ability that I’ve had to write many books. All of these things are wonderful for the ego. But at a certain point, we run out of patience for ourselves in this way, and we start to feel like there’s got to be more to this. It can’t just be for me. There’s got to be somebody else that can benefit from it, and I think that happens when we realize that everything that we have, if we do not give it away, we lose it. We don’t get to take anything with us, and of course, we realize that about material things I guess pretty early on in our lives.
But there comes another point when we realize that this goes for everything that we have learned, all the experience, all the wisdom, all the reflection that we’ve done, all the insights that we have gained from the ups and downs, the suffering that we’ve been through, the joy. Everything that has happened to us, all of it, has got to be distilled. Everything that we have, we must find a way to pass on. We are here for such a short time. What we have to do is make some sense out of what we have been here for. We have to find that which we’ve been given that no one else has been given, and when we find it, we’ve got to find a way then to share it around.
So for me, the meaning of my life has been about understanding how I can take everything that I have, including very strongly for me, my voice, as I grew up with a sister who couldn’t hear and I was her interpreter. I understood very early on that some people don’t have a voice, and those of us who do have a voice have a responsibility to speak up on behalf of others. And we can always do that. We can always speak up on behalf of others. We are here as bridges for one another. We are here to take our experience and to use our experience as a bridge or as a lantern for somebody else. If we can take our experience and offer it back to somebody else in a way that can lift them up, help them to suffer less, to me, that would be more than enough to know that my life had had great meaning. If I knew that something of mine had been of value to somebody beyond me.
So for me, the meaning of life has always to do with looking beyond myself and understanding that everything that I do must have a kind of spill over into the world. Everything I am has got to kind of leave an echo that is a song of comfort, a song of upliftment for somebody else. That is really, for me, the only way that I can make any sense of why we get put on this earth for an indefinable time, why the time that we have here is so incredibly precious. Why we should never waste a single moment of it is because we’re here to repair. We’re here to heal. We’re here to make the world suffer less by our presence. The way that we can do that is by simply offering ourselves in service to others that need the benefit of our wisdom and our experience.
By the way, I don’t think one has to have had any great life experience or be some kind of famous professor with a research degree in anything. Every single one of us has got incredible gifts of wisdom and insight to offer back to other people. The story of our lives could change the lives of other people. When we learn to really value that, the uniqueness of our lives and the preciousness of our existence, the magnificence of this time that we have on this earth, we start to value that. Then we start to understand the impact that we could potentially have on other people to absorb some of the pain that is in the world because there is so much pain. If we can hold space for that, if we can offer a light into other people’s suffering and show them how perhaps we have endured or overcome, I think that that’s the meaning of life for each of us – to find and do that work and offer that back into the world.
~Joanne Fedler is the internationally bestselling author of ten books, including Your Story: how to write it so others will want to read it. She is a writing mentor, entrepreneur, speaker and publisher of Joanne Fedler Media. Her transformational writing courses and Masterclasses teach people to take their lives and turn them into stories they can gift as narratives of wisdom to others.
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