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Do You Choose Meaning or Happiness?

If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costumes and come back as a new character. . .Would you slow down? Or speed up? ~ Chuck Palahniuk

This weekend I read part of an almost 2000 page suicide note.  It was fascinating, well researched, and even funny in parts. The author of the note, 35 year old Mitchell Heisman, killed himself in an attempt to test whether life has meaning or not and whether there is anything in life that can be judged as important. He was taking nihilism to the next level. I am impressed with this man’s drive and ambition, but I’m disappointed because I will never learn the conclusion to his hypothesis that life is meaningless because, well, he’s dead.

My guess is that if Heisman had survived the experiment he might have realized that there was at least one thing of meaning in his life: the 1,905 page polemic he wrote about how life is probably meaningless. This idea was important to him and he was compelled to leave behind an epic ebook for free distribution to let as many of us in on this concept as possible. Is this ironic? that a man is willing to take his own life to prove that life is meaningless? or concrete proof that life is meaningless? A man is willing to die for an idea he finds important. . .meh.  I’m not entirely sure.  What I suspect is that Heisman really wanted his life to have meaning, and that he believed meaning would somehow justify his existence and that would ultimately make him happy—otherwise, why hassle with proving or disproving his hypothesis? At some time or other we all wonder why we’re here and, perhaps, wait for something amazing to happen to us like receiving a calling, falling in love, getting our big break or winning the lottery. People can spend a whole lifetime just waiting for and feverishly expecting meaning to happen to them.

Right now you may feel your life has no meaning because you’ve lost a job, a spouse, a house, your pre-baby figure or your sense of self—maybe all of the above.  What if it didn’t matter if your life had meaning? What if for right now you just did the best you are capable of doing at something you enjoy doing? If seeking meaning is making you miserable, it may be a good time to reevaluate your goals, get focused on what it is you really want, commit to it, forget about the outcome and just do what feels right at this moment.  If you connect those moments and all you can say at the end of your life is that you only had a string of experiences that moved you and had contact with people who passed the time pleasurably with you, would that be so bad? Would you rather be happy or pursue meaning? I don’t believe there is a right answer, only a choice that you are left to make.

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  1. September 28, 2010 at 12:35 am

    My husband and I just read and enjoyed this very much. Thanks

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