So I hit a roadblock with my writing recently. I stalled. Ironically while writing a book about stalling and the need to let go to regain lift in life. Instead of doing that, I kept smacking my head against a brick wall.
I am the master of not following my own advice.
Eventually, I ceded defeat, downed tools, and went on the first holiday I’d been on in over 3 years. (No fucking joke!)
But as soon as I returned, I found myself in the same creative rut. I couldn’t let go of this question I’d been chewing on. And you’re going to laugh. Here it is: What’s the meaning of life?
Truth be told, it’s tortured me a great deal of late. It’s plagued me precisely because I’m struggling to answer that question for myself.
Of course, that’s why we ask it in the first place. Out of desperation – usually following some major life event or change – because we don’t believe our lives currently are.
But the moment we ask what it all means, we fall into a stupid trap. The goalposts only move further away. That’s because the question misses the point entirely. The purpose of meaning.
Meaning isn’t some cosmic truth destined to come to you in the middle of the night (you can go back to sleep now). That’s because meaning is a mental construct.
That means (ha) meaning is something we give to life. It’s something we instill. It’s something we have to cultivate. The meaning of life, therefore, is to cultivate meaning. The purpose of meaning is to give us purpose.
So that’s problem one solved.
Don’t ask what the meaning of life is; instead, think in terms of answering it. But how on earth are we supposed to do that? How do we even begin to determine what the right path for us might be?
The brutal truth is this: We don’t know. We can’t know.
The only way to find out is to make a plan and then take a bold step in that direction. Only then will you know if you’re at least heading in the right direction, generally speaking, or if you need to pick a different path altogether. Even then, you still need to course correct. It’s not just the mountain we choose to climb that matters, but the pathway up it.
The big issue with this is the time and effort required. The older you get, the more you feel you must get it right. You don’t want to spend another 10 years in a career that isn’t right for you. If you’re going to go through the arduous process of climbing another mountain, you better make sure it’s the right one.
Yet, the issue remains. We can only know if it’s the right mountain once we start climbing. Even then, it takes a while. Only after we’ve done most of the hard yards – after we’ve completed our degree and gotten a job or climbed up the corporate ladder – will we know for sure.
When I started climbing the aviation mountain, I gave it very little thought. It seemed obvious to me that that was the mountain I should climb. I wanted to travel the world, and being a pilot was a fantastic way to do it.
Now my motivations have changed. I want to pursue a path of deeper meaning. But I’m having the usual unrelenting doubts. Should I return to the safety of the mountain I’ve already climbed? I have two kids now. A mortgage to pay. The choice seems more complex than it once was. The risks seem more significant, the rewards less certain.
This is at the heart of my writer’s roadblock. I’m seeking answers to questions I can’t know until I put one foot in front of the other. Until I take that bold step into the unknown.
The alternative is to keep smacking my head against a brick wall. At the very least, I know that isn’t working.
You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com
You can also email him directly at: email@example.com