1. Meaning is a construct.
Life is full of meaning for individuals who create meaning in their life. Wealth, sex, friends, family, social causes, politics etc only have meaning to those who assign meaning to them. For one person ‘saving the Pandas’ is meaningful, to another it’s completely meaningless. For one person ‘family traditions’ are meaningful, to another they’re just meaningless time wasters. One man screams for the Stormers every weekend, another has no clue and doesn’t care. We all try share the ‘meaning’ we get out of things with everyone else but there are people who simply aren’t going to care and we need to get over it. Does that mean that nothing is meaningful? Not at all! Well… maybe to the universe at large, yes, everything is pretty meaningless, but we’d all be suicidal if we didn’t attach meaning to the arbitrary things of our lives. So go ahead and get passionate about things – it’s what makes life worth living. Sex, super heroes, crispy bacon, cigars, whiskey, children, vampires, guitars, costumes and hobbits are just a few things that have tons of meaning to me even if they mean all of nothing to you.
2. Friends are temporary but essential
Friends come and go. We make friends by investing time and effort into the kinds of people that meet a particular need in our lives at a particular time. The reality is that we are always changing ourselves. What we believe or enjoy or desire changes over time and so do our needs. As a result we find new people that are more enjoyable to be around and lose friends with whom we’ve lost what once connected us. Just go to a matric reunion 20 years later and you’ll see what I mean. So I figure we need to enjoy the friends we have now and not cry too much over the one’s we’ve lost.
3. People pick a social reputation
Everyone decides at some point how they want to be seen by the community at large. Some pick the ‘nice guy’ reputation and want to be seen as easy to get along with and lovable. Others pick the ‘fuck you’ reputation and want people to fear them until their trust is earned. Still others want to be seen as ‘crazy’ or ‘quirky’ or ‘mature’ or ‘fearless’ etc. We build and nurture these reputations and get quite offended when people don’t take them at face value. We even assign moral judgments to validate our choices like, “Being cautious and mature is BETTER than being spontaneous and fun loving” or vice versa. I have identified at least three reputations that I have adopted since childhood, and I have a good mind to test drive a few more, just for fun!
4. People are scared
People fear everything. They fear small creatures and large creatures. They fear the unknown. They fear pain, and death, and discomfort. They fear change. They fear confrontation and embarrassment and loss of reputation. There is almost nothing that is not feared by someone; and very few people who are not severely hindered by fear in their lives. I think this is sad. I often just sit and watch people going about their daily lives, and this one thing is clear to me – people would be so much more than they are if they weren’t scared. The problem with fear though is that it’s primal, and so it activates involuntarily as a defense mechanism. Our tools for dealing with fear are courage and rationality, traits that are still hard to find, even in 2011.
5. Life is a journey
There is a common misconception that “people out there” (everyone except yourself) are living “normal lives”; that everyone has a college or university degree; that everyone has medical, house, life and car insurance; that everyone knows what they want to do with their lives; that everyone is married with kids; that everyone goes to gym; that everyone wants an enormous salary; that everyone except you is happy and has what they need! More importantly, there is a perception that this is how it SHOULD be – that this is the definition of life; what it means to be a human. This might be the most deceptive illusion in western society. Of course, this is not how things are at all, and in fact the percentage of people in the world for which the above list is true is almost zero. Very few people know what they want to do with their lives. Very few people are in their career of choice. Very few people stay married for long and most people live in ‘dysfunctional’ families. We’re all so busy trying to be like someone who doesn’t exist, and even if they did we’d probably be uncomfortable in their lives. Every individual has their own peculiar path to walk. Every individual is working out what works for them in their own way. There is no ‘model’ or ‘right’ way to live. I think if we all understood this principle we could get on with ourselves a lot better and just enjoy the journey for what it is.