happiness meaning of life

Why I Can't Say Magic Words

9:43:00 AMEvelyn Hildebrand

#Roadtrip along #PCH with #ANINEBINGAs my car tires spun over the highways and byways between Virginia and Ohio last week, I was listening to a book on tape that I did not particularly like. The words that opened the first chapter stuck with me. But it was the nagging kind of stick, the I-don't-want-this-to-be-true kind of stick, the cheap beer aftertaste that leaves you rethinking your adulthood. I spent real, actual money on this? Yikes! 

I liked the beginning: 

"There is no mystery to happiness." 

So far, so good.  Please, tell me the secret to happiness because it has been a God-awful amount of time since I felt completely, incandescently, irresistibly happy. 

"Unhappy men are all alike.  Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn--or worse, indifference--cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays.  The happy man does not look back.  He doesn't look ahead.  He lives in the present."

Yes, I like living in the present.  I like to say that my motto is to live five minutes at a time.  Be responsible for the next five minutes. That is all that is really within my realm of influence.

"But there's the rub.  The present can never deliver one thing: meaning.  The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same.  To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning--the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life--a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain.  Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.

For myself, I have always chosen meaning." (1) 

What a way to start a book. Just revisiting those words leaves me nervous, almost angsty, anxiously hoping that I can have my cake and eat it too, hoping that I can find the right words to turn the world right side up again. 

I want my life to be happy and to be meaningful.  There, I said it.  Plain and simple.  

I do not want to dangle between the two for the rest of my days.  Because that's where I would be, dangling between the two, desperately reaching with one hand for meaning and the other for happiness. Doublefisting with all my might and coming up doubly emptyhanded.

I think the crux of the question culminates with meaningful.  We little humans--or at least this little human--like to think that for something--or someone--to be meaningful, it should use big words. Words like Absolute, Divinity, Existential, Transcendent. Words with capital letters, words with multiple syllables, words that are hard to say and harder to spell. Words that I can find in the thesaurus or look up in the dictionary. Words that I can meld into meaning. 

I am exactly twenty days past my college graduation.  Exactly twenty days.  And in those twenty days, I have discovered that there is no magic word that lets me live life the right way.  I can work and slave and burn the midnight oil.  My heart strings can vibrate and hum from top to bottom.  The range of emotions my soul is capable of reaching is plain old astounding.  But I still will never have the magic yes-your-life-is-meaningful-and-you’re-doing-this-life-thing-the-right-way word.  

I do not have the magic word because I'm not big enough to say it. 

Because of my own smallness and in the face of my own smallness, I'm on the hunt for something bigger than myself.  Someone who knows more than me.  Someone who is steady and knows what's going on and holds everything together so that I don't have to, everything including the stars and the ants sneaking across the living room carpet.  I need Someone like that.  Someone huge and enormous, to pour meaning and purpose into my little life.  Someone big enough to say the word - Yes, you are doing life right.  You are doing just fine. You are doing okay.  You are fine.  You. 

All of those words, all of that meaning, is poured into my present.  

My life does matter. In the grand scheme of things, going for a run on a Thursday afternoon with my best friend, then grocery shopping and making pizza - little, tiny, miniscule, moments. Flashes in the pan. Flashes in a pan that make me happy. Flashes in a pan that are meaningful because they are happening to me and my life has meaning.  Meaning that has been given, not meaning that I've scrimped and saved and scraped together. Meaning that has been given.
I can be happy and my life can be meaningful.  I would stake my life on it.  And I suppose I do, every single day.    


Evelyn Hildebrand

I love people - it fascinates me that it's impossible to really completely know another person.  There's always uncharted territory.  I love the ocean - the power that pulls you into a rising wave, the clean, clear curve, the pounding crash when the bubbly crest of a wave hits you feet as you dive straight through.  I love paint - on canvas.  On mason jars. On newspaper.  On my hands.   


(1) The Interpretation of Murder, Jed Rubenfeld, 1. 


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