Wisdom Theme 4: How we find meaning
‘Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.’ -Steve Jobs, USA
Change is all around us. It is a law of nature. As the world revolves, day turns to night, seasons come and go, food grows and decays, machines are invented and become obsolete, and new clothes once the height of fashion become faded and worn. Across the millennia, even mountains and continents are on the move.
Living beings are also caught up in a constant process of change. The atoms that make up our bodies are in flux. We are born, we grow up, we reach adulthood, and then we get old and die. In every moment, our thoughts and emotions are shifting, often faster than we can realise.
Everything that is produced and created has a life-cycle that is subject to change and decay. Ignoring this basic truth traps us in illusion, clinging to the idea that things endure and remain stable, despite all the evidence to the contrary. We forget that a treasured cup will break, a loving relationship may falter, a flower will wilt, or that our family, friends and pets will grow old. When we fail to appreciate this, our lack of understanding can cause incredible discomfort and pain in our lives.
Even if we know deep down that things will change, we try to ignore the fact. Change can be scary. What will the future hold? Will it be better or worse, easier or harder, sadder or happier? Yet a life without change would be unthinkable, devoid of opportunity and hope. We would be stuck just as we are, without the opportunity to grow or develop. If we can make wise decisions about how to spend our time and energy, change is something to be welcomed and embraced. There is infinite potential in every moment – and it is up to us whether we choose to grasp it.
Our search for meaning will depend on our ability and willingness to explore new and unfamiliar territory. This is why it is often called a 'path'. It is a challenge to venture deep into ourselves, to explore our inner strength and longings, and find out how to use them to create a happy and fulfilling life. The process may be tough, demanding and exhausting, but also thrilling, liberating and profound. Who are we? What are we doing here? How can we make the best of the years we spend on this earth?
The role models in this section are people who went on this personal journey, and who found meaning through abandoning a narrow and self-centred view of themselves and the world. They demonstrate how developing aspirations, principles, service and courage can help us create a happy life for ourselves and others.