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Meaning of Life: What is it? Where does it come from?

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Meaning of Life: What is it? Where does it come from?

Post by real on Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:11 pm

Recently I had an experience that gave me an interesting perspective on the meaning in life and motivation it can give. Since the blog on is disabled, I would like to share the story here with the community.

A friend of mine is a caretaker. His job is to look after people in an apartment-sharing community of retarded grownups. Sometimes he takes some of them to shop some cheap souvenirs. My first thought was: how horrible the condition of these people is, they cannot contemplate on their world due to their limited cognitive abilities! They cannot produce anything meaningful or useful for the society. And the shopping tour mentioned above is a waste of time for the caretaker.

But later it hit me! I started to realize how similar we are with this retarded man on an essential level. We too go shopping, but we buy expensive stuff like consumer electronics, and we do not buy immediately but compare using quite complex criteria to find the best choice. But this whole complexity just hides the essence that our shopping tour is not very different from that of the retarded man. From this perspective, the same is true for all complex tasks we do during the day!

So what is the meaning?! I realized that the loving caretaker respects the behavior and needs of the man who we consider as retarded in context of our normal condition. Through respect and attention the caretaker creates meaning in the shopping experience of the retarded man.

From this I derived the idea that by appreciation of others, of their work, their actions in general we fill them with meaning for us and for them. That is why we have challenges. That is why we have exhibitions. That is why it is important to say "thank you" and to appreciate help and work of others. That is why it is important to have requirements. All that fills the work of others with meaning for them! And if there is a meaning, there will be a motivation.

Thanks for reading.
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Re: Meaning of Life: What is it? Where does it come from?

Post by Beagle Scout on Sun Sep 04, 2011 11:36 pm

Very poignant. I like it.

About the "complex criteria," though, I think that too many people today do not take/have the time to think decisions through, and all too often just act on impulse. Primal impulses like eating and s** can get out of control, especially in this consumerist society that advertises to the base understanding of the human cognitive condition. America and the western world especially have become like spoiled children always wanting more, more, more, and often getting it, but either being dissatisfied and still "hungry" or literally physically sick from eating too much of the wrong thing.

I think we are also in a society of overdiagnoses and excessive pathologizing. I find the "checklists" used in the DSM to be demeaning and un-accepting of human differences, and that it focuses too much on finding "cures" for the wrong things. Instead of looking at cancer we try to cure ADHD or autism. I for one believe the 1/166 statistic with the latter is way overblown, and that especially the more "high functioning" cases do not have a disorder per se but might be gifted with traits mere mortals do not understand. Say they "hear voices"; are they in fact schizophrenic or can they in fact tune in to the higher frequencies of the skies? They are imaginative, eccentric and shy; are they autistic or artistic? Where to draw the line between Shakespeare or Einstein and mental/social "retardation"? ADHD could be considered a product of our achievement-obsessed culture too; the child who would rather play outside than study quantum physics in grammar school is naturally going to be frustrated. Such is the case in Asian countries where the "Tiger Mother" culture is the norm but people are valued only by their CV or GPA.

I could write an essay of my own, but for now I will only say kudos, excellent point, and we really should take a look at how we define people or determine what worth they bring to this world. Remember the old Quaker hymn, too -- "'tis a gift to be simple; 'tis a gift to be free."

Great post! Thanks for sharing!
Beagle Scout
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