Maybe if I achieve goal x, I’ll gain value.
If I give to charity, that will make me a better person.
My job is my life — it makes me who I am.
Without my wife and kids, there would be nothing for me in this life.
If I make enough money, I’ll leave behind a legacy.
It’s a big world out there, and a big universe at that. It’s only natural that we should instinctively seek out reasons to feel big too. What would it say about us if our existence didn’t represent some Great Purpose? Wouldn’t it mean that everything is pointless and that we’re all just blips on the radar of something much larger in scale than we have the ability to grasp? Surely it would at least imply that we’re all living in some shared Sisyphean sort of reality wherein we’re all bound to the tasks and circumstances we were born into.
Wait a minute… that sounds familiar.
Am I to understand that no matter what I do, I’m still just a hamster spinning its wheel next to other hamsters? A rat in a cage? What if I changed jobs, moved to another state, or got into a new relationship? Certainly that would add some meaning.
It wouldn’t. You would still be whoever you are, just with more memories and perhaps a case of emotional whiplash.
A wise man once noted:
“For creatures as small as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
We aren’t big, and our lives are a mere blink in the eye of existence itself. We are ants. That doesn’t mean we can’t be ants with hobbies or ants who love. The simple fact that we live on this anthill at all — punching our clocks, climbing the corporate ant ladder, and doing our favorite ant things (including making other ants) — is astronomically meaningful. Your ability to read a complete stranger’s words on the internet is nothing short of breathtaking, and the same applies to the sense of solidarity you might feel for a fellow ant who is also an extraordinarily meaningful cog in the well-oiled machine that is time.
Isn’t that enough? What are you even looking for? How can you fill a void you can’t actually identify?
You don’t need to add. That’s like putting cayenne pepper on a PB&J. Sure, it could be tasty . You might be pleasantly surprised, but really you could just leave it alone, because it’s damned tasty just the way it is. This bizarre sandwich that shouldn’t even exist does not need anything else added, because it’s already perfect.
Perfect imperfection is the tastiest thing of all, and that’s what we are. We shouldn’t be here, but we are, thanks to some genetic hiccups. Maybe you’re a PB&J, or you might be tomato soup with a grilled cheese. If you’re like me, you’re probably more along the lines of a jar of pickle juice or a bag of chocolate pretzels. Whatever your flavor is, you’re equally as bizarre and wonderful as the rest of us — no more, and no less — no matter how much you dress yourself up with hot sauce, you sexy minx.
You have value just by being alive. What you do with that value is where the beauty of individuality lies, and that’s separate from your inherent purpose or perceived “meaning.” Outside of the act of experiencing the unlikely gift of living life as a human, make no mistake: it’s all just cherries on top.