Have you ever asked yourself ‘What is the meaning of life? Why am I here?’ I don’t think I’ve met many people who haven’t at one point asked themselves this question in one form or another. Infuriatingly, the answer isn’t quite as simple (or confusing) as in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy in which a super computer calculates the answer as being the number 42. It’s a question that has plagued me many times over, unsurprisingly in the more difficult periods of my life. It is also a question arising in many conversations with my friends over the last week or so, which inspired this post.
Death of loved ones, the end of a relationship or simply a sense of failure, can all have effects on our sense of being and our place in the World as such events can unbalance our universe and for a moment propel us into an abyss of the unknown, unfamiliar and disorderly. I believe we all have a need to control our surroundings, in order to feel we are somewhat in charge of our own destiny.
When something happens that we either can’t accept, control or change, our sense of purpose is temporarily thrown into a black hole of doubt about who we are, our choices and how to move forward.
It is interesting to note that the people who ask themselves this question the most, are amongst my most self-aware and insightful friends. Interesting because they are the ones who more often than not believe in everything happening for a reason, which somewhat negates my theory of a need for control. But being one of these people myself, it is for the very reason of believing in fate, from which comes a belief that there must be a reason as to why we here. If destiny exists, then surely there is a predetermined plan? While I know I can’t control this plan, there is an ongoing fear of overlooked opportunities, failure, or of choosing the wrong path and living out the consequences of those decisions. It is this pressure we put on ourselves to arrive at our destinies that makes us more sensitive to unforeseen events in our lives as we try to rationalise them.
When something we don’t understand happens, it can throw our whole belief system out of whack and keeping faith in a fate of any kind becomes harder.
But if things happen for a reason for everyone, surely at some point opposing reasons will collide? This thought occurred to me about three years ago when I made it down to the last two in an audition for the main role of Maria in a production of the Sound of Music. I wanted the part more than anything else and when I didn’t get it, I cursed at the World, the Universe and God. What possible reason could He have for not allowing me to succeed in this one thing that I felt I really needed at the time? At a more rational and accepting point I thought more about the girl who got the part. Maybe she needed it more. Both of us were not able to get the role and so my belief in destiny developed. I still believe that everything happens for a reason. But the reason may not be for your benefit.
Everyone has their reason for living, and as much as we ask ourselves the soul searching question as to why we are here, we all have had equally as many moments in which we can see our answer. Enjoying an evening with good friends, watching your child sleeping, overcoming a fear, sharing a smile with the one you love or accomplishing a personal goal are small moments that build up the map of your life and a story of your own personal reason for being alive.
If things don’t end, then nothing new can begin. If we don’t suffer, we don’t learn compassion or empathy for those around us. If we don’t fail, how will we recognise success?
Life’s hard and never seems to get easier, but to me it is the human connections we make along our voyage, those people we can share this arduous and long journey with, that make it bearable, and sometimes even worthwhile.
Or the answer could just be 42.