32. The Meaning of Life

Good morning and welcome to your thirty-second meditation. You’re probably listening to this because you have a desire to improve yourself. None of us is perfect, nor can we be, but a healthy ambition to be better will get us closer and closer to the person we wish to be. It is not a straightforward journey. There will be times in all of our lives where we feel like we were a better version of ourselves at some point in the past despite our best efforts to constantly improve ourselves. But remember that, as we grow and change, it is only natural to feel some nostalgia for the self that we have left behind. As Joni Mitchell says in her classic song “Both Sides Now”, “Something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day”. And that’s life. We are not simply a sum total of all our experiences, not a tower that is built from the ground up brick by brick. Rather, we are more like clouds, constantly changing shape, never fully formed, both accumulating and releasing memory and experience like moisture, seeing ourselves in ever-shifting light. Even the significance of that which we do hold onto changes as we change, so that, from one moment to the next, we are never building on the same foundation. Difficult though it may be sometimes to accept, this inability to ever achieve stasis is part of the beauty and pathos of living. 

However, this does not mean that self-improvement is impossible. Far from it! In fact, even just trying to be better inherently makes you better. It is in itself an affirmation: of the value of life, of the desire to make the most of our short time here, of our own potential. To say “I want to be better”, is to recognize that improvement is possible. And could we not say that, in a sense, this is the meaning of life? Life as the continuous act of recognizing the possibility of improvement. Indeed, if we were to suggest a meaning of life, bold as it may be, it could never be some fixed definition; some ready-made principle. No, it would have to be a verb; an action; something that was always moving and changing, as life itself does. It couldn’t be a state of being, like simply “being better”. But rather a constant and continuous act. Life as the continuous act of recognizing the possibility of improvement. You can always be better. And it is the very act of acknowledging this that gives you life; gives you purpose. The second you cease to recognize your potential for improvement, you cease to have a purpose, and, in a very real – if not biological – sense, you cease to be alive.

Yes, there are millions of different ways to improve yourself, and the goalposts will constantly be moving. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the legions of available material on personal development. But remember that the first step is always to acknowledge that you can do it. You can be better! And, no matter what your current situation is, recognizing this is an exciting, life-giving prospect. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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