“…to be able to live [one] must either not see the infinite, or have such an explanation of the meaning of life as will connect the finite with the infinite.” –Leo Tolstoy
No matter who you are or what your life is like, everyone faces a crisis of meaning at some point. It seems like it would be simple to say what matters most in life. But it can be a challenge.
What do we mean by meaning? (It’s a fair question.) Here we are essentially asking about your purpose in life. Why do you do what you do? What do you really care about?
If you can answer these questions, the next step is to ask yourself why it is that you hold these things meaningful or valuable. This leads to self discovery and self understanding.
While this is a deeply personal inquiry, it does not have to be a solitary one. Other people, past and present, can help us think it through. The tradition of philosophy encourages us to take these questions seriously, and not to underestimate their importance.
In ancient Greece, Aristotle encouraged people to be specific about their purpose in life. He pointed out the obvious: we are more likely to hit a target if we can see it. That holds true for archery, just as it does for getting what you want out of life.
In the nineteenth century, the naturalist Thoreau picked up this same target metaphor:
“In the long run men only hit what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”
Thoreau encourages us not just to be clear about our target, but to make sure that it is worthy of the greatness that lies within us all.
It might seem obvious that we should move through life understanding precisely what we hope to achieve, and why it is worth pursuing. Yet, it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day routines that leave little time for reflection. It is also understandable that we might confuse our own heart’s desire with social pressures to pursue a certain kind of life.
At Sedona Philosophy, we’re here to help you discover and explore the meaning in your life. Only you can say what it is. But it can be helpful, and enjoyable, to talk it over with others, drawing on traditions around the world. In helping your discover your purpose, we find ours.
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