I love books that lead me to look upon something familiar in a fresh way. Like, life's meaning. I've spent a lot of time pondering the meaning of life. And, searching for it.
Now that I've read about half of Eric Maisel's "The Atheist's Way" (highly recommended), I realize that my pondering is on the right track. The searching, not so much.
In fact, Maisel has done a good job of convincing me that viewing the meaning of one's life as something to be discovered leads nowhere. Unless you want to adopt someone else's values, rather than your own.
You must decide to put yourself before everything and everyone else, not in a grandiose, egotistical, or narcissistic way but in a way that reflects the idea that you alone decide what meaning you intend to make.
...Few people actually nominate themselves in this way. Most defer to the meaning-making apparatus of their culture, taking comfort in the fact that others have built a meaning nest for them.
This built-in cover allows them to avoid taking responsibility and at the same time causes them to grow grandiose, narcissistic, and egotistical. As soon as you put on the robes of your culture and add gravity to your mere humanness by wearing the badge of your profession, your club, your gang, or your clan, you participate in life more selfishly.
...To nominate yourself as the hero of your own story is to step outside society, not with the intention of turning your back on it but with the intention of not allowing it to dictate to you.
...When I nominate myself and begin to make my meaning, I can't then quote Scripture, the law, an opinion poll, expert evidence, tradition, or anything else as the reason for my life decisions. What I must say is, "I've thought it over and decided."
Facts are discovered. Objective reality is discovered. Meaning is made. Subjective reality is made.
But many people -- and I've been guilty of this to some extent -- have it backwards. They believe that scientific truth, objective reality, can be manufactured so it accords with some religious or metaphysical dogma.
They also consider that the meaning of life has been set forth by a god, guru, prophet, or other form of divinity. So we need to find out what that meaning is, not make it ourselves.
Maisel's approach is much more in attune with what we know about reality.
There is no sign of God, or gods. There is no reason to believe that the cosmos cares about us, is aware of us, communicates with us, or has a plan for us. So the meaning of our life has to be created by us.
This is a tremendously liberating and energizing realization.
As soon as I began to read "The Atheist's Way" I realized how much I'd bought into the notion that the meaning of life was sitting somewhere out there waiting to be discovered. I no longer believed that God or a guru was the source of that meaning.
But I still held a largely unconscious assumption that if the rock bottom truth of the universe could be discovered (which includes the possibility that it is bottomless), meaning would come along with it.
Now I see that objective reality is one thing, and the meaning I attribute to it and my life is another thing. Nobody else can create that meaning for me.
The second you agree with someone simply because of her position or reputation, whether that someone is a guru, author, cleric, parent, politician, general, or elder, you fall from the path of personal meaning-maker.
You and you alone get to decide. That is the awesome proposition facing every modern person. The revolutionary idea that I'm proposing is that, as limited as we are in a biological and psychological sense, we are exactly that free in an existential sense.
If we do not live that way, honoring that existential freedom, we get sad and depressed. If we do not live that way, we find ourselves wishing that we had opted for authenticity and had decided to matter.
Have a look. Then decide for yourself what it means to you.