“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –– Plato

During my life, I often questioned its meaning. Why are we here? What is this life all about? Especially when I become frustrated or get hit by an unexpected blow. And it’s interesting how my questions and feelings around discovering my answer changed as I got older. When I was young I just wanted answers. So while I was in school I delighted in studying all the great philosophers. I would feel very happy and inspired when I’d get close to finding some kind of philosophy to hold onto. I would even double-down on my answer during discourses with friends and companions, most of which would involve talking long into the night about life and its many faces.

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

––Joseph Campbell, Philosopher

But this just put me into an endless cycle of clinging and spinning. No sooner would I be certain that I had life all figured out when something new came across my search throwing me, sometimes reluctantly, into a new direction. My answers were really just the bits of knowledge I gleaned during my latest series of searches. As one bit of wisdom spoke to me, I’d completely discard another. Life had to mean one thing or another. I had yet to develop the idea of complexity. Later, complexity became a kind of refuge I sought to protect me from really finding my answer.

I began to revel in the infinite. I loved taking a ride with confusion and speculation, judgment and acceptance. I wanted to know the meaning of life, of course. I wanted to get my answer, but not at the expense of standing out or being labeled in any way.

I wanted my search to be acceptable and accepted. I didn’t want to defend thoughts that were out-of-the-box or different, mostly because I found explanations exhausting. Very often if I was in a group and someone mentioned something that countered my true feelings on a subject, I would suck it up, let my opinions slide, and leave them unvoiced. I used the idea of complexity as the reason for my silence. I viewed the fact that because I might not understand all the complexities of life, my ideas about its meaning wouldn’t be of any consequence and maybe I didn’t know what I was talking about. Perhaps if I was the only one in the room that felt a certain way, my way wasn’t the right way. In short, I didn’t believe myself smart or relevant enough to figure it out.

So I diverted myself from complexity with many things. Travel and the obsession of adventures, mysteries, and longings for places, people and ideas foreign to me would somehow hold the key to the meaning of life. The answer lay far afield. Somewhere over there.

“When traveling is made too easy and comfortable, its spiritual meaning is lost. This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is, after all, a travelling from one unknown to another unknown.”

–– DT Suzuki

But the answer was never found in the whipper wills of foreign lands or cobblestoned cities, or within the languages I needed to learn.

Finally, I surrendered to the question and let it take me where it would. I poured over books again as I sought to knit philosophies together. In just such a way, I came up with my own hybrid idea, an amalgamation of thoughts and ideas on the subject of life and its meaning.

During this time of life, I realized something profound while shopping just a few blocks away from my home at the farmer’s market.

In the sea of stalls I had visited over and over during the course of my life, I came across some cabbage I had never seen or eaten before. I don’t really make it that often but something about its shape and scent called to me. Enough to ask the gentleman behind the stacked vegetables about the cabbage that looked a bit like a toy top, the kind one might spin on a floor. He smiled and said that this particular variety of cabbage was much sweeter than most with none of the bitter taste of other varieties. He assured me that I would enjoy it very much. I nodded and smiled and placed the conical head of cabbage in my wicker basket. As I turned to walk away, he offered a serving suggestion––steam it with carrots.

That night as I heated the olive oil and pinched salt between my fingers to sprinkle into the pan filled with sliced cabbage and carrots, I realized the meaning of life. It was right there all the time––in my experiences. Of finding something new and letting the discovery take me on a fantastic journey involving all of my senses.

The meeting of someone new and tasting of something new. Settling into the kitchen and making it smell good. Stirring the pot. Pinching the salt. Eating and feeling something warm in my stomach that I had never tasted before.

“The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”

––Joseph Campbell, philosopher

I’d reached a point in my relationship with the question (what is the meaning of life?) when it just sat with me and kept me company. I no longer demanded an answer and it no longer demanded me to answer. Life is for living. Life is the experience. Life is going to the farmer’s market and seeing something new then buying it. There is no meaning other than the adventure which is made up of our individual journeys.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

––Pablo Picasso

My gift holds the keys to the secret of happiness no matter what the hardship or desperate

circumstance. And I enjoy giving this wisdom away as often as possible to those I meet that are in any kind of distress. I also love to share in the happiness of everyone I love––the greatest gift I know.

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