Meaning of life

This week I have been enjoying watching the incredible new documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand called HUMAN. It serves to make us stop and question life – “What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?” Including perhaps the most profound question of them all – What is the meaning of life? I decided to take time out to actually think this through, what does it mean to me the individual with my knowledge, skills, and experiences of it and articulate my ponders to encourage you reading this to do the same.

Starting at the beginning, what is life?

Life is often said to be a journey, however for me it has always been a river. A river starts as a trickle among the hills before it sets off on its journey, encountering many sights and sounds along the way; with the different landscapes being thought of as the different influences around us. Every life is an unique that flows like a river through many twists and turns that can never be repeated nor predicted where it will go next. A flowing river makes a gentle murmur, which touches all that comes its way. This murmur is our voice that maybe one but can make a difference. The path a river carves out as it flows, the obstacles in its way, slowing it down for a time before moving free again, are all parallels of our own lives. A river’s colour acts as a reminder of these obstacles, as with scars our some visible and some invisible to the naked eye. In end a river merges with the sea, with the tunnels of near death experiences being on a boat on a deltas heading towards the sea.

The only constant is change

One of the great paradoxes of life is the ever changing nature of it. As much as we may feel we live a Groundog Day existence or have a set routine, each day is actually full of enormous and extraordinary changes that we often take so much for granted we miss the wonder of it. We assume that we will wake up tomorrow at night or that loved one battling a terminal disease will be there to visit tomorrow.

For example the view from the kitchen window looks unchanged as we look out as wait for the kettle to boil, but it is not the same view as yesterday. For it is only when we stop to look closer we can see what has changed. A few petals have fallen off the pink roses that grow to middle centre, the trees in the distance have started to turn red as now autumn in the northern hemisphere, and the birds that have been visiting the bird bath have now begun their flight south for winter.

I’ll do it tomorrow

We wait for a signal to start something new as will know when time is right but as with the constant change there is never going to be a perfect time to do anything as the whole ideology of perfection as I previously wrote on is flawed. Life is extremely fragile and changes in the blink of an eye, by procrastinating making a change we have no guarantee that time will come or be around to make the changes we want to make.

Tomorrow will also never come because it is based on the foundations of today, as when the time comes it is almost as though we cannot appreciate it as the present because we did not prepare properly for it or had such high expectations it could never live up to the way we would imagine it to be. As with living through the past, we cannot appreciate the little things right now that make it special, which is why only the present matters.

Money – a golden carrot

Life is often a golden carrot with false promises by others as well as ourselves. We fool ourselves with ideas of if only I had £250 extra per month, I could do so much more or it could go further. Unless we’re on a small income, that won’t cover anything. If we spend money on credit cards each month, we still we spend it on credit cards and perhaps more as know we have that extra a month. Money to many is the ultimate status symbol of success, showing the home they own with car they drive and all the contents therein.

However, it should not be a symbol at all as means nothing, to me it is almost fools gold. The home is bought on a long term loan, everything that has a bill is effectively rented, and every object may have sentimental meaning but does not add value to life. Since my teens I have struggled to understand how much power and emphasis we put on money. It has never been a driving force nor will it ever be for me to do things. What I mean is that I do things because I want to, not because it looks good or I’ll get rewarded for it in heaven by some god, but simply as I have the knowledge/skills/experience or wish to gain them from doing so.

 42?

Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner conceived of a theory of human development is based upon seven year cycles:

  • Ages 0 to 7: Coming into life
  • Ages 7 to 14: Stronger health & healing abilities
  • Ages 14 to 21: The emotional realm comes into being
  • Ages 21 to 28: Play that turns to responsibility
  • Ages 28 to 35: Peaking
  • Ages 35 to 42: A time of challenge and crises
  • Ages 42 to 49: Effectiveness of Earth
  • Ages 49 to 56: A growing vision and understanding of life
  • Ages 56 to 63: The crossroads – mastery of re-evaluation
  • Ages 63 to 70: A time of harvesting and spreading the wealth
  • Ages 70 +: Reflection

Ask people what the meaning of life is, many will say 42 after the work of author Douglas Adams who coined it as the ultimate answer to the meaning of life, universe and everything. Following Steiner’s patterns, at 42 we enter a cycle where by the soul works hard to impress the full forces of its personality upon the world. At this time, the soul has the opportunity to a higher state of consciousness called Spirit Self. So perhaps Adams was onto something afterall.

From my own experiences life did change at 28 as I began therapy a month before turning it but knew I had to make a change that year, otherwise I would no longer be part of it. 35 also changed me as was at turning 35 I finally accepted and had learnt to appreciate me who I am not for who I thought I was. Since then I have certainly felt a new level of understanding of not just myself but the world around me as well as start a new ‘path’ that feels where I actually belong in life and truer to me than I have been since my mid-teens.

My meaning of life

So for me life is an ever changing, ever evolving experience. Each day is full is full of patterns we recognise but new ones come in to colour in that pattern or change the shape of it so not the same as it was before. Equally, taking time to reflect each day to take in what has changed and what we have learnt, moving on from that day so no longer can hold the same pain it does today. Remembering money is a means to an ends not something we should expect or demand more of, or use it to make someone else’s life hell or put a large donation to an organisation out of guilt.

We all lead busy lives but need to appreciate money cannot buy everything or anything that has worth: the friendships that make us smile when we see a message from them on our mobile phones as they have a special place in both our hearts and souls to the people we choose to be our partners that communicating with is key so misunderstandings can be sorted out at the start not left to grow into something that then has roots and harder to remove as can no longer remember what actually started it all.

How we choose to live life either by the culture and traditions we live by to what life has taught us from our knowledge and experiences, no one way is the right. People for example that live in tribes in the Amazon rainforest are living life their way, it is not backward or primitive but what fits with their surroundings and way life flows their way. Finally, no matter what we look like, race, disabilities, sexualities, beliefs, gender etc, we all share this life as a human being, no one is greater or worse than another.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Robert Burns

Today marks the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, with many having a traditional meal with a haggis but not me. Many of us that grew up in Scotland will remember learning his works at school, I still stumble to understand and read them now. However, Burns was part of my childhood in a different way, as my beloved great uncle Lauderdale and I would always walk along the banks of the River Nith to the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries.

Although there was a play area outside I seldom played on it, instead we’d watch the majestic swans gliding on the river, the deer that lived on a near by hill but nobody could explain to me why they were trapped in a wire cage not free to roam and the changing colours of the leaves, like the world we live in, which was often a theme of our discussions. This was in stark contrast to the exhibitions at the centre, which would never seem change; we’d laugh when the statue inside of Burns had a paint job between visits, as the centre seemed lost in a time I did not know and my great uncle had seen and now gone.

Lauderdale helped me to see as it really is, the only time that matters is now, and life’s only constant is change, although some things may seem constant with no apparent change. Yes as an adult I would love to spend another hour in his company, and feel safe with my hand in his as he’d smoke his pipe and wear his deerstalker hat, which always made his long white beard smell. Even now if I smell it in the air, I swear at times it’s him keeping me company or checking I am okay. So Mr Burns, Happy Birthday, and once more I’ll walk along the Nith with my great uncle Lauderdale.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Robert Burns Centre

Our changing world

Have cars become our homes and sanctuaries on wheels? A place to escape the noisy neighbours, screaming children, and nagging or cheating partners. Where as before we may have gone for a walk, let the clouds take our woes far away to rain on who or whatever is hurting us, a forest of trees giving a large hug of support and a sun smiling to give us hope.

We also have built buildings of fifty shades of grey that suffocate our passions and connectedness filled with an air of jealousy, oneupmanship and bitchiness instead of a gentle breeze to revive the soul, bird song to make us sing with them and friendships of mutual love and respect. Why are we surrounding ourselves in monotone when there is a muticoloured and multiscensory world just outside only a footstep away.

Also, we have mountains of waste as everything has become disposable, nothing lasts more than a few years before being replaced be it a mobile phone or partner. Equally, our communication has been reduced to words on or a face on screen rather than face to face. Is so we as can hide real feelings and emotion? Create fantasies or cry wolf?

Has the world changed or have we? Not wanting to be merely an actor, we have turned away from being part of the cast of Planet Earth, but become her director. We are becoming blind to what is around us, sleeping walking to a brave new world where we will have lost compassion and empathy for the world. Isn’t it time we woke up and broke down the wall?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Shiny Happy People

It is said that there are nine common traits of happy people but they do not talk about them. I have listed the nine below and considered each one, how I feel about each one from my own experiences and knowledge. Am I really one of the world’s shiny happy people, or am I still stuck with depression filling my head with it’s darkness and endless tunnels?

1. “Love themselves for who they are” – Whilst I would concur this is true I would say it is more a self respect and appreciation for who who we are rather than a love. Accepting what this shell of a body can and cannot do, not wanting to change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang, and knowing when we give our best, that is enough for me.

2. “See relationships as an extension to, rather than the basis of the human experience” – I have known others to be depressed when single or unable to do something as need someone to do it with them. For me, I spend much of my time alone and enjoy the new things friends can teach me about life as much as the things we both share.

3. “Embrace change” – For me change in this world is something that happens all the time, there is no point in worrying as it will go the way it’s meant to be every time, even when it hurts hard. Each day is like an empty page, some is filled in with routine but remember the spaces inbetween are for new adventures and experiences, good and bad.

4. “Celebrate rather than compare themselves to the accomplishments of others” – I see people doing their best every day, if I have achieved similar I can share the feelings they maybe feeling now, but even if I have not, I know that they will have given their best to achieve it. Know the little things we have achieved are most often the greatest.

5. “Never dwell in being a victim” – Somethings that have happened in my life hurt badly but I have learnt these are part of who I am, so do not dwell on the pain they cause (mental and physical) but see them as patches that the love of good friends stitch together and give me strength to carry on even if feel the darkness descend upon me. 

6. “They live in the present” – I know how tempting it is to replay past memories, good and bad, or look forward to a future that will never come. Instead I realise today is the only day that matters, to be the best I can be today as these actions and those around me will be the foundations of tomorrow and will soon also be memories of the past.

7. “Trust that everything happens for a reason” – Good or bad, it’s the experience, lessons from it and how we react to it that matters most. If I had not done what seemed frivolous at the time, I would not have the good friends I now have in my life. Sometimes it is hard to see others having success when we do not, but ours may come in another form.

8. “They don’t let money dictate their lives” – From my earliest years I could not understand the global fixation with money, how one country could have so much more when others had so little. I see it as a necessary evil, as allows us to do things we may not otherwise do and do not need a credit card to allow me to have a “good night out.”

9. “Look within for solutions” – I have learnt it is my instincts I must trust when making decisions, reading around a subject before choosing what makes sense for me today. What I choose may not suit another but that is why I will not push my ideas on others, merely suggest to them to trust themselves with their own life skills and knowledge.

After over 35 years I guess I truly am happy within, something I never thought I was allowed to be. I may never have the white wedding or 2.4 kids, but those have not been what my life has been for. Equally, the future is such an expanse into the unknown, I would rather dip my toes in the present not jump ahead. Free to be me, not adding to the darkness.

© Fi S. J. Brown