How often is reference made to the search for meaning in modern life?
In the last few years, I have increasingly felt that we have inadvertently turned this on its head. Rather than searching for meaning in our lives, should we perhaps be more focused on creating meanings?
We can choose to live each day aware only of surface. Or we can look beyond that surface to joy and meaning.
It is easy not to notice beauty. Rushing to the supermarket for groceries, I did not have to notice that snow really does fall as fine glitter – I thought that was only in the movies. The motes dancing under the street lamp and coating the ground with particles of light took my breath away in an unforgettable moment of joy and wonder.
It is easy not to imbue life with meaning. My engagement and wedding rings may be just rings. Or they may be a simple reminder of our wedding day and marriage.
But, for me, my engagement ring is my joy ring. It is a constant reminder of the sparkles of joy I held inside for a few weeks as I tried to understand what getting married after 18 years together meant. I remember that, coincidentally, this was at a time when I was feeling quite burnt out. The reflected light from the stones couched in the roughened, uneven surface of the ring, feeds my awareness that joy may always be found in the unevenness of life.
My wedding ring contains the unbroken circle of eternal love that is a common association. But, again, it is not a pure circle, acknowledging my acceptance that love and marriage are not easy. It reminds me of the true nature of the commitment I have made and strengthens my resolve.
These are meanings that I have created. They are not strictly necessary. But they enrich my experience of my own life and form part of a web of interrelated meaning that is often described as ‘a rich inner life’.
Looking at traditional cultures, I am invariably struck by the shared web of meaning at the centre of life. This is most visible in art (including dance, music and storytelling), ritual and religion. I do not believe that modern life has lost meaning; but I do believe that both individually and collectively we need to re-own our part in its creation.