After looking far and wide, talking to many wise people, and looking over my philosophy notes, I have finally found the secret to a meaningful life. I do have to warn you, however, It’s not necessarily amazing news.
To get a share in this meaning, you first have to accept one thing as true: that life is a tragedy. This one is pretty obvious. If you think otherwise, you’re just naive. Just look at your own life, I’m sure that everybody has a story about how their family was torn apart by sickness or about how a close friend passed away in a car accident. If you can’t see tragedy in your own life, all you have to do is read the news to hear about how life has put people through some seriously tough times. Whether it’s gang violence in Los Angeles or wildfires in Australia, there is no shortage of tragedy afflicting human experience.
Now, accepting this truth is probably going to be a hard pill to swallow. It definitely was hard for me too. However, I don’t think that accepting life’s inherent tragedy should put you in a bad mood. Once you realize this truth, you are called to do something about it. You are called to transcend the tragedy and to aim at something better, even if you fail. This call, my fellow musketeers, is where the meaning of life is found.
If you’re going to transcend the tragedy of life in a way that pushed the world slightly towards the good, you’re going to need to become the best version of yourself you can possibly be. Everybody can articulate an aspect of themselves they can improve. You need to accept the fact that you will never be perfect, and be honest with yourself on how you can be better. It’s all about the journey
So, what does transcending the tragedy of life look like? It should look different for everybody, but it should also have similarities. You should be working to push yourself and the world towards the “good” and away from the “bad”. I like to think of it as striving for Heaven and avoiding Hell. I don’t mean that in a religious sense, for me It is very concrete. As I stated earlier, The world is a tragic place and you can easily act in a way that makes that worse.
For example, if you leave trash around your dorm room, you’re going to upset your roommates and make the environment in your room a slightly more hostile and negative place every time you do it. On the other hand, if you consistently clean up after yourself, You can make your room a slightly less tragic place that people actually want to be in. This may be a small example, but imagine if you applied it to the entirety of Xavier’s campus? The entire city? The entire world? Imagine the suffering we could prevent if we all just cleaned after ourselves.
Notice that I am not arguing that this the secret to a happy life. I actually think that our culture puts too much emphasis on happiness. Just think about it, with all of the tragedy in the world, how can you possibly expect your self to consistently be happy. Even if you are happy at the moment you eat a candy bar or get a promotion, it’s not reasonable to expect happiness to be your default emotional state. Pursue meaning, not happiness.
So, dear reader, the world may be a tough place, but you are tougher. It’s all about the journey. Respect the process and find your own meaning.