One thing a lot of philosophers and some specialized psychologists (especially logotherapists) say is that it’s very hard to find your purpose when you’re so immersed in your culture. You get so much stimulation from so many places all at the same time that it’s very hard to filter it all. And that makes it very hard to hear your own voice, the sound of your true self.
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
But all that changed one night. He was walking home alone from band practice, and the sky couldn’t have been clearer. Silence and peace. That was when he looked up and the stars completely hypnotized him. More specifically, it was Orion’s Belt. He stood there amazed for over half an hour. There he was, a man used to sounds, music, and loud noise, all of a sudden finding meaning in life through silence.
A few months later he enrolled in college to become a physicist. His adventure had just begun…
Seeing, thinking, and speaking calmly: Nietzsche’s theory for finding meaning in life
There are times when clearly feel like a leaf floating along with the current. You barely have time to enjoy the things around you. You won’t let the light blowing of the wind lift you up for a few seconds to get a better view of everything around you. It might be the things that excite you or scare you, or even the things that don’t matter.
Our culture and our education push us towards the things that imprison us: our habits. Some of us have even turned into addicts who crave immediate gratification and short-lived pleasures. We want everything and yet at the same time we feel empty. We want to be unique and special, but at the same time we erase what makes us who we are.
It’s not easy to find meaning in life in the middle of that thoughtless and unsatisfying way of life. So it’s worth mentioning what Friedrich Nietzsche said about this problem: to find the purpose of life, you have to be capable of seeing, thinking, and speaking calmly.
In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche talked about how every educator should have one goal: to set the foundation of what he called “aristocratic culture.” But he wasn’t talking about the upper classes. He wanted to give the younger generations a more refined, stricter way of thinking. He wanted everyone to make their lives into a true work of art.
Nietzche and aristocratic culture
He recommended three very specific aspects that educators should focus on:
- Learning to see what’s around you in an unhurried way, without getting ahead of yourself. At least not before you look.
- Learning to speak and write the same way. If you get your eyes used to looking at things calmly, you also have to do that with your writing and your speech: calmly and from the heart.
- Not acting out of pure instinct. To do that, you have to be a balanced and — above all — careful thinker.
Anyone who integrates these abilities into the fiber of their being, anyone who manages to see, think, and speak calmly and patiently will find meaning in life sooner or later. It’s the thing that will define them, the thing that will line up the best with their identity.
Finding meaning in life doesn’t mean you have to wear out the soles of your shoes
You don’t have to go to Tibet to find a meaning in life. You don’t have to travel around the world hitchhiking with a backpack on your back. Yes, you’ll have a lot of experiences, that’s for sure, but you probably won’t get the answers you need.
Hakuin, a 12th century Japanese poet, said that when you don’t know where the truth lies, you’ll make the mistake of looking for it as far away as possible. But the fact is that you can find the secret to all your doubts within yourself.
That’s why you don’t have to wear out the soles on your shoes to find a meaning for your life. It’s just about making a mental space where you can reflect. How? These points may help.
- Slow down.
- Make a list of what’s a priority in your life and what’s not. Or a list of the things that make you feel good and things that work you up. Clean out the spaces in your life.
- Spend more time on yourself. Look for times during the day when you can be calm and silent.
- Get back your ability to be amazed. Be that person who lets themselves look at the stars at night. Let yourself appreciate the unusual things that happen in your city, the hidden magic in your daily life.
- Be aware of the things that bring you joy, the things that make you feel good and inspire your curiosity. Because that’s where you’ll find the thing that gives you meaning, the thing that defines you.
Lastly, we want to point out that our life goals usually change as we go. It’s completely normal and probably for the best, because it means you’re in motion. It means you’re growing as you reach new heights and discover things, creating new hopes and new goals.
In the end, life means being in motion. And if you know how to listen to your inner voice with the calmness it deserves, you’ll always find the answers you need.