Some years ago, I was sitting in a flower bed at 2am with a dear friend of mine. We were somewhat worse for wear and attempting to star gaze. I asked her what she thought the meaning of life was. Her reply was, ‘To be kind to people and love your family.’ That was it. I was looking for a deep philosophical discussion and a debate on the meaning of everything. I was in existential mode. I wrote her off that night as being more than a little dumb. I was disappointed.
Last night I spent the evening in a draughty school hall watching tiny humans put on a musical extravaganza about happiness. None of the little people belonged to me, so I wasn’t emotionally invested in the process at all. It was fascinating to see how different each one of them was. Some were brilliant, with great dance moves, confidence and a possible bright future on stage. Others had absolutely no rhythm or forgot all their words. But one thing they all had in common was that they tried. They all enthusiastically gave it their best shot. Even the dads who dressed up as bears and danced to ‘bear necessities’ really tried hard.
Each generation bemoans the status quo and tries to change the world. But in essence, we are all living up to the same ideals and dreams our great-grandparents strived for. The dream where if you work hard and do the right thing, you’ll succeed in life and make some money, live in a nice house and . . . well, what?
It’s so hard to break free of what we have been told to do forever. It’s hard to break free from the shackles of making a living and reaching for more all the time. How come we don’t reach for joy instead? How come it’s not ok to not ‘succeed’?
I work really hard at what I do. I spent massive amounts of time reaching out to people who I can work with – where I can enhance their project while they give me money to do what I do. I love what I do. But it’s a never-ending cycle. I work hard so I can continue to sustain my lifestyle so I can work hard. We’ve all seen that piece of writing about going to work to pay for stuff we only need because we go to work, or something along those lines.
Those tiny little things on stage were trying so hard to fit in, to do the thing. Some days that’s no small task, for anyone.
Who started this cycle? Whose dream are we living anyway? Is it human nature to want to be the best, do the best, strive and strive and strive? Or is that a groove we’ve found ourselves in – a groove so deep we can’t see anything but the sides. Oh, there are some who dig their own little grooves into the side of the much larger one – but are there any people who manage to climb out? Are there any people who look up and begin to plan a way out of it all? Maybe we all need help with that.
Maybe a human ladder reaching for a different space, an un-grooved pathway that says the meaning of life is to be kind to others and love your family?
Maybe my dear friend was right. Maybe that’s the answer. Because then we’d stop competing, we’d stop hating, we’d stop seeing differences and just see love.