Meaning is philosophy’s ultimate question because it asks us what makes life worth living. It helps us understand how to live a more fulfilling life by helping us understand our reason for being.
The Japanese concept of Ikigai (pronounced “ick-ee-guy”) means “reason for being.” Ikigai demonstrates the intersection of our values, the things we like to do and the things at which we are good. It is said that discovering your own Ikigai will bring fulfillment, happiness and longevity.
Discussions about meaning often prompt people to reflect upon their lives. As we get older, we better understand what matters and better appreciate our own convictions rather than worrying about what others think of us. Upon reflection, many people say they would have worked less and played more if they could live life over. They say if you are fearful for your well-being, you cannot take time to think about spiritual goals. Economic dignity is a necessity. Bill Gates has said there will be no more poor countries in the world by 2030. If more resources become available, then more people should have opportunities.
Younger people often wonder what they are going to do with their lives. One thing that keeps them going is trying to find out what they are meant to do. Meaning changes as we move through life, so we learn to flow with living. What is meaningful at 20 will be different at 40 and 60. Everyone’s experiences are different, so we must be flexible. Rather than overthinking things, we can try to just enjoy our lives by being respectful, kind and considerate.
People who overcome hardships are very well equipped to help other people do the same. They can help others understand that attitude is a choice. When someone gets up in the morning they can decide what their attitude is going to be for the day. You can choose to be cheerful and look on the positive side of things. We can be intentional about choosing the things that give us energy and make us feel good. The more we learn about ourselves, the better we can make those choices.
We can find meaning by paying attention to the details and considering all the possible solutions. Meaning is made up of many pieces; it isn’t constant, it changes over time. If we take the initiative use all of our senses and build connections we can find ways to contribute to society. If we are kind to our fellow human beings and we participate in authentic conversations, we will understand what it means to be part of a community.
The Oakland Philosophy Project is a large community meetup group based in the Detroit suburbs. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting on Thursday, July 9th and contributed to this article.
# # #