Hockeynut! wrote:I really enjoyed that Columbia. Thanks for sharing the link.
I've often thought that as children, we're led to believe we can do anything, be anything we want to be, see all our dreams come true, only for everything to come crashing down as we enter adulthood, get a "real job", etc. I look at my dad who is 65 and was recently diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He retired at 62, mostly because he kept getting laid off from various crappy manufacturing jobs when plants would close down/lay off most of the work force/etc. I look at his life and wonder if he was ever really happy. He never had an important job. He never had a great marriage. He always seemed so disappointed with everything. Now as he gets ready to fight cancer again, I wonder if he thinks he wasted his life.
I'm self employed as a photographer and I enjoy my "job" most of the time, but I don't feel like I'm doing anything great or important. I'm going to be 35 this year, out of high school for the past 16 1/2 years and I can't understand where time has gone. Is running a successful business enough? Will I look back at my life 35 years from now and feel like I threw it all away? Right now, 65 feels so far away, but I'm over half way there. I love life and want to milk it for all it's worth. Hopefully I have the courage to do just that.
I always look around at other people and feel that they are missing something by not, as you put it, "milk[ing life] for all it's worth." What you seem to be talking about is almost like a "step two" in the process of "getting it
" (I guess it can be read as 'life'). First, I think you should be thrilled with the fact that you've arrived at step one. I don't think there's a whole lot more after step one myself, but so few people seem to even get to that point that its worth patting yourself on the back for being there. I haven't found the perfect way to describe "it" just yet, but I guess the closest I can come is to quote Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death when talking about living life with the consciousness of death: "This is the terror to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expresion -- and with all this yet to die." This consciousness of death is very reminiscent of choosing to live despite the absurdity of life (Camus most specifically but other existentialists as well). Whether choosing to live despite awareness of the absurdity of life or living with the consciousness of death, I think this is the best description of "getting it" that I can come up with.
In looking for a step 2, I think one must be cognizant of the enormity of making it to step 1 and look again to Camus, "The struggle itself...is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." Being alive at step 1 is incredible. For me the best primer on how to live after arriving at step 1 comes from Robert C.W. Ettinger (father of cryonics, author of Youniverse: Towards a Self-Centered Philosophy of Immortalism and Cryonics), who largely advocates a me-first, feel-good approach to life. This, however, is not merely one hedonistic pursuit after another (at least not necessarily). Rather, it is a constant struggle, I think much like the one that you are highlighting -- What should I do now? Am I on track to be fulfilled later in life? Should I be doing this? That? Etc.? I imagine there is no easy answer to this question and no single correct one either. To be able to say that you lived life with the consciousness of death/in the face of the absurdity of life and that you strived to always be mindful of what you wanted out of life in each moment, in the future, and on the whole is, I think, the most that you can hope to do with your brief time on the earth.
Just as one ought not to miss the meaning of life by getting stuck in "the 9-5 grind", similarly, one ought not to miss the meaning of life by constantly pursuing a single meaning of life that may not exist. Both can have the same malignant effect of distracting you from milking all that you can out of each day, which I think requires some level of recognition, maybe even on a daily basis, of just how special getting to live a day as the person that you are really is.
Of course, I could be missing the mark completely on a step 2 that is out there and really be no more enlightened than those who fail to reach step 1, who I tend to feel sorry for.