A Meaningful Life

Photo Credit: Nadieska Meza Siles – unsplash.com

What constitutes a meaningful life?

There is so much to this question that it leads some people to believe that it was too big to answer. To others it may seem too etherial to worry about. Yet, does it not drive our subconscious to move in the directions we travel, and to translate all of the events of our life? As life circumstances challenge our dreams and aspiration, we benefit from studying this question more deeply. My father’s life has always been a subject of “meaningful life” contemplation for me.

My father, William, Edward, Mabin, White was born in Ballymoney, Ireland on May 3, 1931. He was described by family members as being “odd” and there were suggestions that my grandmother had a difficult time at his birth; that he may have been too long in the birth canal. In any event, from bits and pieces of communication with those that knew him, he is described as being a solitary man with simple aspirations in life.  He married (Verna Mary Snyder) on New Years Eve of 1964, at the age of 33 to my mother, 23. His entire vocational accomplishment was essentially janitorial, clean-up or labour work, right up to the age of 42 when he became permanently disabled as a pedestrian in a motor-vehicle accident.

Though extensively mentally and physically disabled, he survived his wife, who passed away just 5 years after his accident. She was just 37. Dad passed away on October 29, 1999 and I took his cremated remains out to the Royal Oak cemetery on Vancouver Island to rest with the ashes of my mother. That was one of the hardest moments of my life – but also one of the most fruitful.

On one hand I mourned his life. It seemed as a cruel tragedy to me; just another man ill-equipped for life through disability, with no great accomplishments to draw the attention of others. To my knowledge, he never really failed at much, as he never really aspired to much. I was too young to pass to know whether or not he was content, and I would love to have had the time to discuss life with him – maybe get some insight into any measure of meaning he found.

Left to what I know of his life, I can still find meaningfulness in it. He had at least one close friend that enjoyed his company, and missed him when he was gone. He enjoyed fishing, and was especially fond of sea bass, when he was not fly-fishing and or making his own flies. He tried his hand at song-writing, and I only know this because I found the 45 rpm record with 2 songs on it years after his passing. They were not commercial works, but rather simple songs with questions that he sought answers to in life. He brought four children into the world, and I, for one, am thankful for that.

At one level, meaningfulness is a bit of a calculation: Purpose + values = meaning.

Example: I can drive a cab, and that serves a purpose. It is meaningful to patrons when they need a ride. It is meaningful to the driver when it aligns with their values in life. If they value service to others it may be a highly meaningful profession. If they don’t value service for others, it remains purposeful, but not necessarily meaningful, and this may be the one that was grump all they way from the airport to your hotel. 😉

On another level, meaningfulness is intrinsic. As creatures created by a Creator, there is an element of meaning that stands beyond our dictate. The purposes are established outside of ourself, and the values are that of the Creator – therefore all life has meaningful ness at this level. So then one has to ask: which meaning is more important: mine, or the Creator’s? Is not this a classic battle of the will; our ego clashing with our created essence? Does this not rob of us so much potential for joy, peace and contentment?

These questions are for each of us to ask of ourselves individually – we have been given the freedom to do exactly that through our free will — and as life circumstances challenge our dreams and aspirations – our search for meaningfulness (felt as joy, peace and contentment) how do we fell? How are we responding? What do we believe — it makes all the difference as to how we will react / respond.

How does your life compare with that of my father’s? Should you compare at all?

Are you encouraged that your life has both levels of meaningfulness?