A few days ago I was riding my bike in central Oregon. I was having a good time cruising around the dirt roads and nicely graveled bike paths in oh-so-charming Camp Sherman, where the Metolius River flows.
Pedaling along, idly pondering the Meaning of It All, my brain ejected a marvelous thought that instantly struck me as having a great intuitive appeal.
There's no meaning to life, which is absolutely freaking glorious!
I felt like a weight had been lifted from my pondering psyche. Meaning is heavy, man. It isn't something you toss around lightly.
Even if you're no longer religious, like me.
For most of my life I believed there was a transcendental meaning to human existence. We were supposed to realize the nature of a divine ultimate reality. Absent that, life was shallow, ephemereal, illusory.
When I gave up that belief, the hold Meaning had on me loosened considerably. However, until that bicycling epiphany popped up I hadn't realized how much I still was seeking to understand what makes life meaningful.
In other words, I was still looking for something beyond the life that I was actually living. Before, this was God. Now, it was Meaning.
On my next bike ride, I began to hear a pinging sound. At first I thought it was coming from a house, or a nearby RV park. Then I realized it was a broken spoke bumping against other spokes as I rode along.
I stopped and bent the end around a neighboring spoke. Quiet now. Both inside and outside my head. I didn't try to extract any meaning from this event. I didn't wonder how it happened or whether I could learn anything from it.
It was just a broken spoke. I'd get it fixed when I take my bike in for its fall tune-up.
This is a small life happening. But I used to be one of those people who would wonder about both large and small happenings, "What is the universe trying to tell me? Is there a message for me here?"
Now my attitude is much more along the line of...
Stuff happens. Then other stuff happens. Until we die. Then nothing happens. To us, at least. For the living, more stuff happens. Until they die.
Life seems much more meaningful to me when I don't try to find any meaning in it. If that sounds vacuous and, well, meaningless to you, I completely understand. Not too many years ago I would have scoffed at anyone who looked upon life the way I do now.
All I'm saying is that I'm finding I can be happy, productive, contented, relaxed, and purposeful without adding an extra layer of meaning frosting to the cake that is my life.
Every day I have lots of experiences. They are what they are, nothing more, nothing less. I no longer believe that happenings mean anything more than "this happened."
Yes, there are reasons for everything that happens. If it were possible to trace the chain of the causes and effects for a particular happening, like a broken spoke, we'd end up at the big bang 13.7 billion years ago.
That isn't meaningful. It is just a fact. Stuff happens. Then other stuff happens.
There's nothing wrong with searching for the meaning of life. There's also nothing wrong with giving up that search. Either way, stuff is happening. Each of us keeps on doing what we're doing until we do something different.
Pretty damn simple. Joyfully simple.
Update: after I published this post and proof-read it, I noticed a post under "You might also like" (below) that I did indeed like. Had forgotten about it. Fits with this theme. Check out The spirituality of my sickness.